des·​per·​ate | \ˈdes-p(ə-)rət, -pərt\

Definition of desperate 

1a : having lost hope a desperate spirit crying for relief

b : giving no ground for hope the outlook was desperate

2a : moved by despair or utter loss of hope victims made desperate by abuse

b : involving or employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration made a desperate leap for the rope

3 : suffering extreme need or anxiety desperate for money desperate to escape celebrities desperate for attention

4 : involving extreme danger or possible disaster a desperate situation

5 : of extreme intensity … a desperate languor descended heavily upon her, and she slept …— Elinor Wylie

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Other Words from desperate

desperateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for desperate


despairing, despondent, forlorn, hopeless


hopeful, optimistic

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The farm sells about 10,000 trees each season and is turning down orders every day from desperate retailers, LaCasce said. Lisa Rathke, The Seattle Times, "It may be harder to find the perfect Christmas tree," 21 Nov. 2018 Even his own high school had turned him down for a job by the time the JCC agreed to give this desperate coach access to the gym on Sunday nights. Ben Cohen, WSJ, "How LeBron James Gave His First Coach a Second Chance," 20 Nov. 2018 However, the size of your generator should be determined by your needs in an emergency, temporary situation—you're not looking to power each and every appliance and gadget during desperate times. David Agrell, Popular Mechanics, "Should You Buy a Standby Generator?," 11 Sep. 2018 There are also cancer patients desperate to restart treatment, as well as the malnourished. Joe Heim And Julie Tate, Houston Chronicle, "As Hart children begged for help, system failed them," 12 July 2018 That could become the prevalent mindset and make for some exciting but desperate racing down the stretch of the regular season. John Smallwood,, "NASCAR's Monster Energy regular season enters homestretch," 11 July 2018 In the interview, Lili also discussed her reasoning for keeping her relationship so private, despite the hoards of Sprousehart fans (me) who are desperate for any sliver of content. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Lili Reinhart Reveals What It’s Really Like to Date Cole Sprouse," 9 Oct. 2018 President Donald Trump is desperate to achieve what no U.S. leader has since the onset of the Korean War: a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Brian Finlay, Fortune, "Businesses Are Salivating Over an Open North Korea. Should They Be?," 20 June 2018 Karius, making his second appearance since his calamitous display against Los Blancos, will have been desperate for a solid, confident performance to try prove himself to his doubters., "Liverpool Fans Furious as Loris Karius Makes Another Huge Mistake in Pre-Season Friendly," 11 July 2018

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

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

History and Etymology for desperate

Latin desperatus, past participle of desperare — see despair entry 2

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Statistics for desperate

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for desperate

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

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More Definitions for desperate



English Language Learners Definition of desperate

: very sad and upset because of having little or no hope : feeling or showing despair

: very bad or difficult to deal with

: done with all of your strength or energy and with little hope of succeeding


des·​per·​ate | \ˈde-spə-rət, -sprət\

Kids Definition of desperate

1 : very sad and worried and with little or no hope People became desperate for food.

2 : showing great worry and loss of hope a desperate call for help

3 : giving little reason to hope : causing despair a desperate situation

4 : reckless because of despair : rash He made a desperate attempt to escape.

5 : very severe The injury is in desperate need of attention.

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