despair

noun
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

despair

verb
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from despair

Verb

despairer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for despair

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 This song relies on loud, distorted timbres, and some ‘non-linear’ tones to create an aggressive, frightening effect that will transport you straight to the dungeon of despair. Rosy Cordero, EW.com, "Nine Inch Nails, Pixies, Nirvana land on surprising top 10 scariest songs of all time list," 31 Oct. 2019 But Kira never told her doctor—or anyone else—about her postpartum suicidal thoughts and feelings of despair. Patia Braithwaite, SELF, "Mental Health in Black Moms Is Largely Ignored—5 Ways We Can Improve It," 30 Sep. 2019 Andrew Yang did so to vaguely talk about how the economy is sending people into despair. German Lopez, Vox, "The Democratic debates neglected one of America’s biggest public health crises," 1 Aug. 2019 Yet there have been mechanical inconsistencies with all of them — particularly Sale and Porcello — that have turned promise on one pitch into despair on the next. Alex Speier, BostonGlobe.com, "Dana LeVangie continues search for answers to solve pitching staff’s inconsistency," 1 Aug. 2019 But psychologists warned that forcing officers to give up their weapons — symbols of the job that forms their identity — can drive them further into despair. New York Times, "4 Officer Suicides in 3 Weeks: N.Y.P.D. Struggles to Dispel Mental Health Stigma," 27 June 2019 But that has turned into despair as public hospitals run out of drugs and private pharmacies, like many other businesses, close down while supermarkets ration items such as bottled water and beer. Farai Mutsaka, The Seattle Times, "Zimbabwe opposition leader seeks dialogue on economic crisis," 23 Oct. 2018 Large regions of our country have fallen into economic despair. David Brog, National Review, "What Bret Stephens Gets Wrong about National Conservatives," 1 Aug. 2019 Hamas quickly took the lead, but a steady large turnout was also driven by widespread despair in Gaza. Fares Akram, The Seattle Times, "Gaza officials say Palestinian man killed by Israeli troops," 30 Mar. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb This Molly doll and this Samantha sold for just under $3,000 each. Don't despair if your doll lacks a signature, though; one unsigned Samantha from 1986 still commanded $1,640—and that's despite the fact that one of her eyes sticks a little. Emma Bazilian, House Beautiful, "Your Old American Girl Dolls Could Be Worth Thousands of Dollars," 27 Oct. 2019 The despairing young man, Kim Ki-woo, lives in the tiny semi-basement apartment, which yields a ground-level view of the street from a ceiling-high window. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "How “Parasite” Falls Short of Greatness," 14 Oct. 2019 In the downbeat, despairing worlds of both these thrillers, this upbeat, inspiring theme shines. Gerald Bartell, Washington Post, "An online warehouse gone rogue. Driverless cars, hijacked: Fiction that feels eerily possible.," 9 Oct. 2019 What despairs us is knowing that the slightest breeze will leave us without power. Danica Coto, The Denver Post, "Puerto Rico braces for rain, power outages as Dorian nears," 27 Aug. 2019 During a 1954 preseason game, George despaired as the Eagles dropped short pass after short pass into the middle of the field. Will Larkin, chicagotribune.com, "Ranking the 100 best Bears players ever: No. 6 Bill George," 31 Aug. 2019 Her mother is free-spirited and beautiful (represented by shots of a coltish, teasing Brigitte Bardot); her father is besotted, despairing, and violent. Peter Keough, BostonGlobe.com, "Doc Talk: A mother’s tale, a choral tour, a Patrick Swayze bio," 21 Aug. 2019 Harry is drunk, despairing, lovesick and lost down blind alleys much of the time. Scott Timberg, latimes.com, "Nordic noir master Jo Nesbø takes another dark twist with 'Knife'," 10 July 2019 Alone and unable to work, Boylan despaired and made plans for suicide. David Armstrong, ProPublica, "In Men, It’s Parkinson’s. In Women, It’s Hysteria.," 23 Aug. 2019

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.

See More

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

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about despair

Statistics for despair

Last Updated

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for despair

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for despair

despair

noun
How to pronounce despair (audio)

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

despair

verb

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

despair

verb
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.

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on despair

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for despair

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with despair

Spanish Central: Translation of despair

Nglish: Translation of despair for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of despair for Arabic Speakers

Comments on despair

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

strength of mind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • pasta resembling wheels with spokes
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!