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

Essential Meaning of despair

1 : the feeling of no longer having any hope His despair nearly drove him mad. She let out a cry of despair. [=desperation] See More ExamplesI 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/carried/driven her to the depths of despair.Hide
2 : someone or something that causes extreme sadness or worry

Full 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 There is no sugarcoating that the last 10 years have been a decade of despair. Mike Bianchi,, 20 Oct. 2021 Many believed Ou was an ordinary man pushed to the brink of despair over a years-long housing dispute. Nectar Gan, CNN, 18 Oct. 2021 The Covid-19 pandemic has only aggravated the economic distress and sense of despair. New York Times, 14 Oct. 2021 Coming out of the depths of despair, dealing with a dreaded virus, our collective mindset has shifted. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 13 Oct. 2021 This limbo has long been a source of despair, but this year there was a rare glimmer of hope for a big jump forward. Deepa Fernandes, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Sep. 2021 Sault dances with that specific existential despair, at once lighthearted and deathly serious. Will Dukes, Rolling Stone, 9 Oct. 2021 The crew of the Safer has watched the unfolding catastrophe in Yemen with mounting despair. The New Yorker, 4 Oct. 2021 But along with despair, there is the drive to make a difference back home. CBS News, 1 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Coffee lovers already paying $8 or more for a bag in the supermarket or up to $5 for a cup may despair over even-higher prices, but a spike in coffee prices on the international futures market doesn’t always trickle down to the consumer. Matt Ott,, 27 Sep. 2021 Like West Berlin during the Cold War, Taiwan’s vibrancy and openness can provide hope to those who, from Xinjiang to Hong Kong to Tibet to Beijing, might otherwise despair. H. R. Mcmaster, National Review, 12 June 2021 Still, people who are uncomfortable with the spiritual nature of such programs shouldn’t despair. Annie Lane, oregonlive, 25 May 2021 Carnivores may not despair as the chef offers Agneau/Oregan, lamb chops brushed with sweet garlic, and Boeuf/Poivre, an earthy strip steak for one or a côte de boeuf for two hungry diners. Sylvie Bigar, Forbes, 18 May 2021 If your lifetime achievements do not include fluency in Latin and construction of a giant church, don’t despair. Dallas News, 9 May 2021 If the depiction of the superhero team seen in Zack Snyder's Justice League wasn't to your liking, don't despair; another beloved incarnation of the supergroup is returning with new stories this summer. Christian Holub,, 22 Apr. 2021 Vegetarians, do not despair: There are meatless options, too. Gabriella Gershenson, WSJ, 15 Apr. 2021 Do not despair, though, because the palace has been in formal contact with Tanna in the past. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 9 Apr. 2021

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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Last Updated

24 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Despair.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for despair


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

More from Merriam-Webster on despair

Nglish: Translation of despair for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of despair for Arabic Speakers


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