des·​per·​a·​do | \ ˌde-spə-ˈrä-(ˌ)dō How to pronounce desperado (audio) , -ˈrā-\
plural desperadoes or desperados

Definition of desperado

: a bold or violent criminal especially : a bandit of the western U.S. in the 19th century

Examples of desperado in a Sentence

the notorious desperados of the Wild West

Recent Examples on the Web

So many of its characters remain recognizable—blustering desperadoes, who believe in their right to act outside the law and then impose rules and strictures on others. Rachel Syme, The New Republic, "The Outlaw World of Deadwood," 6 June 2019 For Jessilyn —who now goes by Jesse—the disguise accesses the whiskey-drinking, quick-drawing desperado inside her. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: A Proving Ground for Men and Storytellers," 16 Aug. 2018 The desperado appears as a wizened, gun-toting shadow slung across railroad tracks and in the scared whispers of shopkeepers and children. Marisha Pessl, New York Times, "Screams. Tears. Meltdowns. New Picture Books Let Bad Behavior Fly, With Just a Bit of Advice," 6 June 2018 Dillinger's family identified the body, but the desperado had recently undergone plastic surgery and dyed his hair black in an attempt to hide his identity. Neal Taflinger, Indianapolis Star, "Debunking the myths surrounding John Dillinger, Indiana's most wanted man," 31 Aug. 2017 At least a half-dozen agents were involved in the case, which used stakeouts, confidential informants, search warrants and wiretaps to gather evidence against these desperados. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "An old lady, a conspiracy and the FBI | Joseph Gerth," 23 June 2017 Instead, an orderly development of the interior—less violent, and less inclined to celebrate the desperado over the peaceful peasant. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "We Could Have Been Canada," 15 May 2017 Though legally off-limits to commercial exploitation, the lands are under near-constant siege by loggers and other desperados. National Geographic, "Illegal Loggers Wage War on Indigenous People in Brazil," 21 Jan. 2016 At first glance, Ross McDonnell’s ambrotypes resemble 19th century portraits of desperados. Pete Brook, WIRED, "Meet the Ragtag Vigilantes at War With Mexico’s Cartels," 23 May 2014

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'desperado.' 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 desperado

1647, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for desperado

probably alteration of obsolete desperate desperado, from desperate, adjective

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Statistics for desperado

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for desperado

The first known use of desperado was in 1647

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English Language Learners Definition of desperado

old-fashioned : a violent criminal who is not afraid of getting hurt or caught

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