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

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 Not only that, but the despair and disillusionment many of us have felt since the election can, in certain cases, calcify into a sort of gallows humor. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Everything You Need to Know About the Summer of Scam," 19 June 2018 In an instant, Suárez's disposition was transformed from abject despair to utter jubilation. SI.com, "World Cup Countdown: 6 Days to Go - Ghana Denied Semi Final Place by Cynical & Clinical Uruguay," 8 June 2018 Many Gazans blame Israel and the Palestinian Authority for the dismal economic circumstances, but the despair has also translated into frustration with Hamas. Erin Cunningham, Washington Post, "As Hamas faces a crisis, it tries to turn up pressure on Israel," 31 May 2018 That rag-tag band of survivors inspires the people with their optimistic resolve to pick themselves up from despair and show us that the road ahead can be routed and paved by the people, for the people and of the people. Steve West, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Innocence lost, power found | Opinion," 8 May 2018 The despair of 1968 left an indelible mark on Baltimore’s history. Latoya Ruby Frazier, The Atlantic, "The Geography of Oppression," 3 Apr. 2018 This can all be a bit overwhelming to manage, but don't despair. Nicole Kobie, Teen Vogue, "How to See All Your Google Data," 29 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Still, for those who despair, Phoenix resident Michael Bennett's story offers a glimmer of hope. Amy B Wang, azcentral, "It's nearly impossible to get a permit for the Havasupai waterfalls. Here's why," 22 May 2016 That's left many Democratic voters confused and almost despairing over which candidate to support to avoid losing the seat to Republicans on Tuesday. Ronald Brownstein, CNN, "How Democrats' California dream got twisted," 5 June 2018 In her 2004 off-Broadway hit Bridge & Tunnel, Jones inhabited 14 characters in the span of two hours, including a Pakistani def jam poet and a Chinese mother despairing for her lesbian daughter. Whitney Robinson, Town & Country, "She's comedy's new It Girl—all over again.," 19 Sep. 2016 As time went on, the couple despaired of events in Russia. Sophia Kishkovsky, New York Times, "Moscow Theater Rebels, Husband and Wife, Are Dead," 8 June 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

18 Sep 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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