des·​o·​la·​tion | \ˌde-sə-ˈlā-shən, ˌde-zə-\

Definition of desolation 

1 : the action of desolating the pitiful desolation and slaughter of World War I— D. F. Fleming

2a : grief, sadness … he put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild ringing scream, the cry of desolation.— George Eliot

b : loneliness

3 : devastation, ruin a scene of utter desolation

4 : barren wasteland looked out across the desolation

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Examples of desolation in a Sentence

She sank into a state of desolation and despair. photos that show the desolation of war

Recent Examples on the Web

In Sufism, the word desolation has an entirely different, positive meaning. Maija Liuhto, Longreads, "A Music So Beautiful the Birds Fell from the Trees," 28 June 2018 The silent desolation of the building seemingly ballooned the milliseconds between each tick, filling a temporal chasm which seemed longer than a second. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "An empty US Capitol after McCain’s death is sobering reminder that the clock is ticking," 28 Aug. 2018 All loss is akin to other loss; loss begets loss, and loss leads to desolation. Cynthia Ozick, New York Times, "One Last Book From a Virtuoso of the Short Story," 14 May 2018 The highlight, however, was exploring the Alabama Hills and Movie Road desolation of Lone Pine, which a century ago was the go-to place for Hollywood to film its early Westerns. Blake Snow,, "A SloCal road trip gives you a geographic, climatological super sampler," 20 May 2018 The controversy flared recently after the St. Johns River Water Management District approved an epic invasion by trucks to mend the former mine’s desolation. Kevin Spear,, "Florida plan for Lake County sand mine provokes residents' ire," 22 June 2018 The entire Mojave Desert is about 50,000 square miles, and its defining geographic characteristics are the Joshua trees, of course, and its otherworldly desolation. J. Weston Phippen, Outside Online, "People Keep Finding Bodies in Joshua Tree," 20 June 2018 Big empty lots dotting downtown, once symbols of desolation and downturn, are mines of opportunity for local developers. Jesse Dougherty,, "Las Vegas, shaken by tragedy, finds an unlikely rallying point: Its first-year NHL team," 27 May 2018 This is nothing new, presumably, but there is a fresh note of desolation running through her account. Stephen Metcalf, The New Yorker, "How Superheroes Made Movie Stars Expendable," 19 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'desolation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of desolation

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for desolation

see desolate entry 1

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Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for desolation

The first known use of desolation was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for desolation



English Language Learners Definition of desolation

: extreme sadness caused by loss or loneliness

: the condition of a place or thing that has been damaged in such a way that it is no longer suitable for people to live in : the state or condition of being desolate


des·​o·​la·​tion | \ˌde-sə-ˈlā-shən \

Kids Definition of desolation

1 : the state of being deserted or ruined Photos showed the desolation left by the fire.

2 : sadness resulting from grief or loneliness

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More from Merriam-Webster on desolation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with desolation

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for desolation

Spanish Central: Translation of desolation

Nglish: Translation of desolation for Spanish Speakers

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