1

despair

play
verb de·spair \di-ˈsper\

Definition of despair

  1. intransitive verb
  2. :  to lose all hope or confidence <despair of winning>

  3. transitive verb
  4. obsolete :  to lose hope for

despairer

noun

Examples of despair in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. Things look bad now, but don't despair.

  5. <we despaired when we saw how little time we had left to complete our project>

Origin and Etymology of despair

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


First Known Use: 14th century


2

despair

play
noun de·spair \di-ˈsper\

Definition of despair

  1. 1 :  utter loss of hope <a cry of despair> <gave up in despair>

  2. 2 :  a cause of hopelessness <an incorrigible child is the despair of his parents>

Examples of despair in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. His despair nearly drove him mad.

  5. I was overcome by despair at being unable to find them.

  6. She finally gave up in despair.

  7. The people were driven to despair by the horrors of war.

  8. This latest setback has brought her to the depths of despair.

Origin and Etymology of despair

(see 1despair)


First Known Use: 14th century


DESPAIR Defined for English Language Learners

1

despair

play
verb de·spair \di-ˈsper\

Definition of despair for English Language Learners

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


2

despair

play
noun de·spair \di-ˈsper\

Definition of despair for English Language Learners

  • : the feeling of no longer having any hope

  • : someone or something that causes extreme sadness or worry


DESPAIR Defined for Kids

1

despair

play
verb de·spair \di-ˈsper\

Definition of despair for Students

despaired

despairing

  1. :  to give up or lose all hope or confidence <She began to despair of ever finding her homework paper.>


2

despair

play
noun de·spair

Definition of despair for Students

  1. 1 :  loss of hope :  a feeling of complete hopelessness <He finally gave up in despair.>

  2. 2 :  a cause of hopelessness



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up despair? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

skillful, artistic, or intricate

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • hot-dog--hot-dog--hot-dog--hot-dog-cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ