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 Around the state’s restaurant industry, tales of despair are increasingly met with tales of hope: new foods, emerging brands, dauntless entrepreneurs. Susan Dunne,, "Dozens of new restaurants opened in Connecticut during the coronavirus pandemic, defying the odds," 22 Feb. 2021 The result is a tragic story with a foreboding sense of despair along with a streak of dark humor running through it. cleveland, "Russo brothers come home, team up with sister to make ‘Cherry,’ their most personal film yet," 21 Feb. 2021 Toiling under global capitalism often means alienation from the product of your labor or, at the very least, the means to shape or control it, and that discovery alone formed its own kind of despair. New York Times, "The Rise of the Wellness App," 17 Feb. 2021 Before reading out the letter, parents shared a collection of anonymous anecdotes that painted a picture of despair in the era of remote learning. Alice Yin,, "Struggling kids, fed-up parents: Chicago families that want CPS schools open say they’re being drowned out by ongoing teachers union pushback," 22 Jan. 2021 Public health officials call his a death of despair. Elaine Ayala,, "Ayala: Suicide, a death of despair, leaves a San Antonio family in grief and surrounding by questions," 19 Jan. 2021 In the midst of despair, every good thing is all the more precious. Joan Gaylord, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘Big Girl, Small Town’ marks the small victories of everyday life," 19 Jan. 2021 The South American country's beleaguered economy and the coronavirus pandemic are pushing millions to despair. Star Tribune, "Ecuador to pick new president amid deepening economic crisis," 3 Feb. 2021 Less prevalent, but still notable, are the genuine words of encouragement when one's despair appears profound enough. CNN, "Inside the Reddit army that's crushing Wall Street," 29 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Oceania Cruises, a culinary and destination-focused cruise line, is offering an antidote to despair with the release of its 2022 Europe & North America Collection. Necee Regis,, "Pop-up igloos at Ocean Edge Resort, a car rental app comes to Boston, and Club Med debuts in Canada," 17 Feb. 2021 This is a good policy, but for those of us who already bought elaborate cards, there's no need to despair. Eleanor Cummins, Popular Science, "Trim down on holiday waste this season," 24 Dec. 2020 But don’t despair and stare up into the stars feeling defeated. oregonlive, "Shut out from Columbia Sportswear’s Mandalorian-inspired Star Wars outerwear collection? Here’s more Mando merch," 4 Dec. 2020 Historically, however, even those with ample reason to despair over the election’s results have accepted the tally as the will of the people. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why Defeated Presidential Candidates Deliver Concession Speeches," 9 Nov. 2020 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

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

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Despair.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for despair



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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