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

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The joy that comes from being able to run and move unencumbered must have come to her then, along with the despair that comes when that freedom is gone. John Kelly, Washington Post, 17 Sep. 2022 These areas produce the greatest despair and, though rarely, stories of immense courage and hope. Barbie Nadeau, Rolling Stone, 6 Sep. 2022 But what if Musk has it backwards, and the despair over global warming is a major problem contributing to the lack of children? Chloe Berger, Fortune, 2 Sep. 2022 The film, which was met with mixed reviews, is a twisty, talky family drama about the despair of a married couple facing their own mortality. Ramin Setoodeh, Variety, 31 Aug. 2022 This mournful ballad delves into the despair of a relationship in the process of dissolving. Jessica Nicholson, Billboard, 26 Aug. 2022 The most subdued of Ronstadt's Buddy Holly covers (this one written by Paul Anka) takes its cue from the despair in Anka's lyrics, not the skip in Holly's step on the original recording. Ed Masley, The Arizona Republic, 11 July 2022 The cause of the despair was the impunity that the trial had laid bare, that the officers had for years been able to operate in a world where nothing mattered, in a moral void. Alec Macgillis, ProPublica, 4 June 2022 Much of the despair among teenagers and young adults has been inwardly directed, with soaring rates of self-harm and suicide. New York Times, 2 June 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Critics and online pundits despair over the Jurassic World films as the nadir of modern blockbuster filmmaking (especially as Jurassic World opened just as Transformers had peaked), but audiences young and old show up and mostly have a good time. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 10 June 2022 Well, New Yorkers will hopefully have to despair for only a little bit longer: The restaurant has drawn interest from a number of buyers, and hopefully the city will act quickly to fill the space. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 15 Aug. 2022 If a buyer is not in a financial position to fund the equity investment to the deal (the down payment), do not despair or give up. Richard Parker, Forbes, 10 July 2022 There are as many reading appetites as there are readers, so if your favorite book of 2022 doesn't make our list, don't despair. Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, 24 May 2022 Over the next week and a half, the Widderses rode an emotional roller coaster, elated by seeming improvements, only to despair over indicators of the severe damage to their daughter’s liver. Lena H. Sun, Washington Post, 17 May 2022 This purchase behavior targeting presents as one of many reasons not to despair in digital marketing this year. Anil Malhotra, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2022 But do not despair: There may be an affordable studio oasis in your future. New York Times, 6 Jan. 2022 So don't despair if Champagne is hard to come by this year. Jeanne O'brien Coffey, Forbes, 23 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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


Middle English despeir, despair, borrowed from Anglo-French despeir, despoir, noun derivative of desperer (tonic stem despeir-) "to lose hope or confidence, despair entry 2"


Middle English despeiren, despairen, dispairen "to lose hope or confidence, be discouraged," borrowed from Anglo-French despeir-, tonic stem of desperer, going back to Latin dēspērāre "to give up as hopeless, despair of," from dē- de- + spērāre "to look forward to, hope for, hope (that)," verbal derivative of *spēs-, presumed alternate stem of spēs, spem "hope, expectation" perhaps by analogy with vīr-, vīs "strength, force" — more at speed entry 1

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

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Last Updated

30 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Despair.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2022.

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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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