des·​o·​la·​tion ˌde-sə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce desolation (audio)
: the action of desolating
the pitiful desolation and slaughter of World War ID. F. Fleming
: grief, sadness
… he put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild ringing scream, the cry of desolation.George Eliot
: devastation, ruin
a scene of utter desolation
: barren wasteland
looked out across the desolation

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 The blistering heat — with an average high temperature that’s more than 100 degrees four months of the year — only heightens the sense of desolation. Tribune News Service, The Mercury News, 17 May 2024 These take the form of painful, protracted firsthand recollections of bloodshed and desolation, from stories of buildings destroyed by artillery shells, to accounts of mothers and grandmothers forced to step up from behind the confines of femininity and social expectation. Siddhant Adlakha, Variety, 16 Feb. 2024 Editor’s picks For Straube, there’s a connection between the desolation in her music and geography. Julyssa Lopez, Rolling Stone, 7 Dec. 2023 Arrakis is not the sole setting for the film, either—like Caladan, the ancestral home planet of House Atreides for which Norway was a stunt double in the previous film, there are other worlds explored here that sharply contrast Arrakis’s burning red desolation. Charlie Hobbs, Condé Nast Traveler, 1 Mar. 2024 Our first glimpse of Samet, a tiny speck trudging across a blinding-white landscape, is a typical Ceylan overture: a lone figure dwarfed, spectacularly, by a terrain that reflects his inner desolation. Justin Chang, The New Yorker, 23 Feb. 2024 Her character’s inscrutable mien keeps John and the audience a little off-balance, though Erskine reveals glimmers of emotional desolation in Jane’s steady gaze. Kristen Baldwin,, 1 Feb. 2024 Israel makes a desolation and may call it peace The doctrine that emerged out of the conflict was most famously articulated by IDF commander Gadi Eisenkot. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2023 Quite recently, architecture has sparked her interest, and she was intrigued by our pre-interview chatter by the raw industrial desolation of Scott Avenue in Bushwick, location of the previous night’s Luar show. Mark Holgate, Vogue, 16 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'desolation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English desolacion, desolacioun "state of distress or hardship, feeling of distress, affliction," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French desolacion, borrowed from Late Latin dēsōlātiōn-, dēsōlātiō "abandonment, solitude," from Latin dēsōlāre "to leave all alone, forsake, empty of inhabitants" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at desolate entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near desolation

Cite this Entry

“Desolation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


des·​o·​la·​tion ˌdes-ə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce desolation (audio)
: the action of desolating
: sadness resulting from grief or loneliness
: the condition of being desolated : ruin
: lifeless land

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