despair

noun
de·​spair | \di-ˈsper \

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

despair

verb

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

Verb

despairer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for despair

Synonyms: Noun

desperation, despond, despondence, despondency, forlornness, hopelessness

Synonyms: Verb

despond

Antonyms: Noun

hope, hopefulness

Antonyms: Verb

brighten, cheer (up), perk (up)

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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

Energy, too, is a special case, since spending tends to be influenced by the oil-price cycle, which has moved from despair in 2015 to optimism again this year and last. The Economist, "Business in the Republicans’ America is flourishing, but also changing," 24 May 2018 Both teams were in tears at the end, some from ecstasy, some from despair. Chris Scott, CNN, "Commonwealth Games 2018: NZ win first women's rugby sevens gold," 15 Apr. 2018 The despair from Maria is still evident as residents try to rebuild. CBS News, "Puerto Rico ordered to release hurricane-related death data," 5 June 2018 Russell's conclusion suggests that despair and optimism are opposite sides of the same coin in the world of labor, where the forces that impel people to work can lie beyond their understanding. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "Chicago Underground Film Festival: Gold and copper miners tough it out in Good Luck," 5 June 2018 After frustration, anger, despair and setting fires, pastor is now focused on mentoring young people The fires that besieged the West Side after Martin Luther King Jr.'s killing remain emblazoned in Randall Harris’ memory. Chicago Tribune, "Rage, riots, ruin," 9 Apr. 2018 If Fairbanks began in straitened circumstances, the early life of Mary Pickford was filled with death, disease, and despair. Nancie Clare, Los Angeles Magazine, "How the World’s First Movie Stars Made Sure Beverly Hills Didn’t Become Part of L.A.," 20 Feb. 2018 Nino Rota's music score is very good, often playing with romanticism against the despair of the visual portions. James Powers, The Hollywood Reporter, "'8 ½': THR's 1963 Review," 26 June 2018 At the same time, Twelfth Night ushers in the despair of late Shakespeare. Hugh Hunter, Philly.com, "Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's 'Twelfth Night': A hilarious tragedy on human frailty," 24 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

This despairing 17-minute allegory from 1965 — the last film by Trnka, the Czech stop-motion animation pioneer — is a highlight among the 20 shorts and eight features in this series, the first complete retrospective of his work in the United States. Mike Hale, New York Times, "The Film Festivals of New York: A Tasting Menu," 4 Apr. 2018 Other prisoners despaired at not being included among those released, with one trying to kill himself by taking pills, according to witnesses. Maggie Michael, BostonGlobe.com, "In Yemen, 46 detainees released from UAE-controlled prison," 4 July 2018 Griffith's involves the loss of his wife and daughter, while Howell despairs over his role in an accident at his former outpost that resulted in the deaths of six sailors. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Lighthouse': Film Review," 4 July 2018 What is crucial, Dr. New says, is making sure despairing doctors have access to treatment and therapy. Lucette Lagnado, WSJ, "Hospitals Address Widespread Doctor Burnout," 9 June 2018 Despite those conclusions, the study argued against despairing against finding intelligence in the universe. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "We May Be All Alone in the Known Universe, a New Oxford Study Suggests," 27 June 2018 Reut Vilf of the City of David Foundation said the coin, discovered in the sewage system running beneath ancient Jerusalem, dates back to the year 69 C.E., the fourth year of the Jewish revolt against Rome and the year in which the rebels despaired. Yori Yalon, Jewish Journal, "Rare coin minted 1,900 years ago discovered in Jerusalem," 5 July 2018 Unable to cook and despairing of the central role a beanbag chair plays in their interior design concept, the hapless couple decides charring meat outdoors is the least humiliating way to entertain their friends. Irene Hsiao, Chicago Reader, "It's the end of the world at the Barbecue Apocalypse and nobody feels fine," 29 June 2018 When the air gets down near zero, parts fail and people despair. Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, "‘Not built for this’: What fails in the extreme cold? Just about everything.," 4 Jan. 2018

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

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for despair

Noun

see despair entry 2

Verb

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

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Statistics for despair

Last Updated

30 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for despair

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

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More Definitions for despair

despair

verb

English Language Learners Definition of despair

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

despair

noun

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

: the feeling of no longer having any hope

: someone or something that causes extreme sadness or worry

despair

verb
de·​spair | \di-ˈsper \
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.

despair

noun

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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