de·​spair | \ di-ˈsper How to pronounce despair (audio) \

Definition of despair

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : utter loss of hope a cry of despair gave up in despair
2 : a cause of hopelessness an incorrigible child is the despair of his parents


despaired; despairing; despairs

Definition of despair (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to lose all hope or confidence despair of winning

transitive verb

obsolete : to lose hope for

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Other Words from despair


despairer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for despair

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of despair in a Sentence

Noun On the occasion of Johnson's tercentenary, Martin (A Life of James Boswell) searches out the psychological elements covered up by Boswell and others: the immense insecurities, bouts of deep depression, corrosive self-doubt and, in his last days, despair for his very soul. Publishers Weekly, 21 July 2008 Players who'd been on the 2004 Olympic team joked about whether their two bronze medals equaled one silver. There was none of the despair or finger-pointing that followed the world championships in '02, when Team USA finished sixth. — Kelly Anderson, Sports Illustrated, 11 Sept. 2006 The people who try to save endangered species in Hawaii are immune to despair. They have to be, to keep doing what they do. — Lawrence Downes, New York Times, 19 Dec. 2004 His despair nearly drove him mad. I was overcome by despair at being unable to find them. She finally gave up in despair. The people were driven to despair by the horrors of war. This latest setback has brought her to the depths of despair. Verb It is possible that at this stage Caesar had not altogether despaired of a consensual solution to the difficulties facing the Republic. — Anthony Everitt, Cicero, (2001) 2003 Sometimes it is hard not to despair about relations between men and women in American society. They seem to have hit rock bottom. — Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, New Republic, 6 May 2002 Yet, until very recently, Alzheimer's was so poorly understood that scientists despaired of finding a treatment, much less a cure. — Ken Garber, Technology, March 2001 Things look bad now, but don't despair. we despaired when we saw how little time we had left to complete our project
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun First-year coach Kevin Stefanski has posted more victories than Hue Jackson did in 40 games, a 3-36-1 era when the Browns reached the depths of despair with an 0-16 record in 2017. Marla Ridenour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Time to recognize Browns are legitimate after 4-1 start," 12 Oct. 2020 Corona had come to the meeting seeking help for her own family and left feeling a sense of despair. Diana Markosian, National Geographic, "Everything west of this small town avenue is intact. Everything else is gone.," 7 Oct. 2020 The result is a No. 1 hit that crystallizes Carey’s pop genius and has imprinted itself on millions, finding beauty in a moment of despair and preserving that blessing for generations to come. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The 100 Greatest Mariah Carey Songs: Staff Picks," 5 Oct. 2020 An emergency government formed in May to manage the crisis has been plagued by infighting, adding to the public sense of despair. Joseph Krauss, Anchorage Daily News, "Israelis mark Yom Kippur under ‘painful’ virus lockdown," 27 Sep. 2020 An emergency government formed in May to manage the crisis has been plagued by infighting, adding to the public sense of despair., "Israelis Mark Yom Kippur Under ‘Painful’ Virus Lockdown," 27 Sep. 2020 An emergency government formed in May to manage the crisis has been plagued by infighting, adding to the public sense of despair. Joseph Krauss, Star Tribune, "Israelis mark Yom Kippur under 'painful' virus lockdown," 27 Sep. 2020 On the first garage level, Catherine Martin, as Waltraute, recounts the problems in Valhalla accompanied by a sinewy solo cello, her despair naked without the usual big cushiony orchestra. Heidi Waleson, WSJ, "‘Twilight: Gods’ Review: Drive-Through Opera in the Motor City," 19 Oct. 2020 Chris Hedges: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges in discussion with Project Censored Director Mickey Huff on the culture of despair. Chronicle Staff Report,, "Bay Area political events: Fareed Zakaria, Gov. Andrew Cuomo," 19 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb If your mood is just as dark, don’t despair: The sun will soon shine. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Oct. 16, 2020: Sagittarius, tighten your belt; Pisces, you yearn for love," 16 Oct. 2020 Harry Styles fans shouldn't despair, though, as the musician has several movie projects in the works. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Harry Styles Is Not the Next James Bond, so Just Cancel the Franchise Already," 3 Oct. 2020 There is no need to despair if the videoconferencing wanes. Maria Shine Stewart, cleveland, "Ten ways videoconferencing mirrors life: Sun Messages," 7 Sep. 2020 But if yours leak butter or the dough becomes sticky and unworkable, do not despair. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Kouigns amann may be the best pastry you will ever have," 11 Sep. 2020 Don’t despair; there are, in fact, Orlando arts events on the horizon. Matthew J. Palm,, "Let’s look forward, Orlando: Wanzie’s ‘Ladies,’ Grammy celebration, a ‘Great Comet’ and Cirque," 5 Aug. 2020 But even if hefty new federal grants don’t materialize and San Francisco’s deficit this year causes havoc, there’s no need to absolutely despair, Falk said. Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Cautious hope as calamity looms," 6 July 2020 The Giants released nonroster invite Pablo Sandoval and three others Sunday, but Panda fans should not despair. Henry Schulman,, "Giants release Pablo Sandoval, 3 others in temporary procedural move ahead of camp," 28 June 2020 Musicians may despair and sell their services for less. Ernesto Lechner, Los Angeles Times, "L.A. boasts one of world’s most vibrant salsa scenes. The coronavirus may wipe it out," 15 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'despair.' 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 despair


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for despair

Verb and Noun

Middle English despeiren, from Anglo-French desperer, from Latin desperare, from de- + sperare to hope; akin to Latin spes hope — more at speed entry 1

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Time Traveler for despair

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for despair

Last Updated

23 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Despair.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for despair


How to pronounce despair (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of despair

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the feeling of no longer having any hope
: someone or something that causes extreme sadness or worry



English Language Learners Definition of despair (Entry 2 of 2)

: to no longer have any hope or belief that a situation will improve or change


de·​spair | \ di-ˈsper How to pronounce despair (audio) \
despaired; despairing

Kids Definition of despair

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to give up or lose all hope or confidence She began to despair of ever finding her homework paper.



Kids Definition of despair (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : loss of hope : a feeling of complete hopelessness He finally gave up in despair.
2 : a cause of hopelessness

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