des·​o·​la·​tion | \ ˌde-sə-ˈlā-shən How to pronounce desolation (audio) , 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
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

From a helicopter, Greenland’s brilliant white ice and dark mountains make the desolation seem to go on forever. David Rising And Seth Borenstein,, "Climate change turns Arctic into strategic, economic hotspot," 26 Aug. 2019 From a helicopter, Greenland’s brilliant white ice and dark mountains make the desolation seem to go on forever. Anchorage Daily News, "World powers increasingly see the Arctic as a hot property," 22 Aug. 2019 Feral hogs are relieving us from the desolation of the world! Marissa R. Moss, Los Angeles Times, "From feral hogs to Ben Shapiro, how Americana star Jason Isbell keeps winning Twitter," 7 Aug. 2019 Not just the desolation, the hand-to-mouth uncertainty of the young artist, but also the developing engagement with the self. David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Ed Smith was an unsung hero of L.A.'s poetry world. The punk poet is finally getting his due," 19 July 2019 David de Vries reads both introduction and epilogue, while Paul Woodson delivers the main story, superbly conveying the desolation of a man embattled by various kinds of treachery. Washington Post, "Turn up the volume: This month’s best audiobooks have something to say," 17 June 2019 The moon’s magnificent desolation is far wetter than scientists imagined. Shannon Stirone, National Geographic, "The moon releases surprising amounts of water during meteor showers," 15 Apr. 2019 Mostly, her works are dark meditations that first tap into a sense of melancholy desolation, but then gradually and relentlessly morph into strange, otherworldly structures. Allan Kozinn, WSJ, "‘Aequa’ by the International Contemporary Ensemble, ‘He(a)r’ by Nordic Affect and ‘Collider’ by Daníel Bjarnason Reviews," 18 Dec. 2018 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

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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Statistics for desolation

Last Updated

31 Aug 2019

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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 How to pronounce desolation (audio) \

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

Comments on desolation

What made you want to look up desolation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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