des·​per·​ate ˈde-sp(ə-)rət How to pronounce desperate (audio)
: having lost hope
a desperate spirit crying for relief
: giving no ground for hope
the outlook was desperate
: moved by despair or utter loss of hope
victims made desperate by abuse
: involving or employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration
made a desperate leap for the rope
: suffering extreme need or anxiety
desperate for money
desperate to escape
celebrities desperate for attention
: involving extreme danger or possible disaster
a desperate situation
: of extreme intensity
… a desperate languor descended heavily upon her, and she slept …Elinor Wylie
desperateness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for desperate

despondent, despairing, desperate, hopeless mean having lost all or nearly all hope.

despondent implies a deep dejection arising from a conviction of the uselessness of further effort.

despondent about yet another rejection

despairing suggests the slipping away of all hope and often despondency.

despairing appeals for the return of the kidnapped child

desperate implies despair that prompts reckless action or violence in the face of defeat or frustration.

one last desperate attempt to turn the tide of battle

hopeless suggests despair and the cessation of effort or resistance and often implies acceptance or resignation.

the situation of the trapped miners is hopeless

Examples of desperate in a Sentence

The collapse of her business had made her desperate. As the supply of food ran out, people became desperate. We could hear their desperate cries for help. a desperate struggle to defeat the enemy He made a desperate bid to save his job. They made one last desperate attempt to fight their way out.
Recent Examples on the Web Duff stars as Christine, a woman who is desperate to fine Brennan and uncover the truth. K.j. Yossman, Variety, 15 May 2024 Florida struggled to find its footing most of the night against a desperate Boston team playing with its season on the line. Jordan McPherson, Miami Herald, 15 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for desperate 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'desperate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English desperat, borrowed from Latin dēspērātus, past participle of dēspērāre "to give up as hopeless, despair of" — more at despair entry 2

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of desperate was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near desperate

Cite this Entry

“Desperate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


des·​per·​ate ˈdes-p(ə-)rət How to pronounce desperate (audio)
: being beyond or almost beyond hope
a desperate illness
: reckless because of despair : rash
a desperate attempt
desperately adverb
desperateness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on desperate

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