des·​per·​ate | \ ˈde-sp(ə-)rət How to pronounce desperate (audio) , -spərt \

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

Other Words from desperate

desperateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for desperate



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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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Two teams predicted by many to make the playoffs — and both of which suffered a loss in Week 1 — will be desperate for a win when the Arizona Cardinals make the short trip to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders. Richard Morin, USA TODAY, 15 Sep. 2022 The old house, uninhabited since the previous owner died more than two years earlier, was desperate for a makeover. Chris Moody, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2022 Yet Americans are still desperate for cars, Buckberg said, which has allowed dealers to keep their markups much higher than pre-pandemic levels. Christopher Rugaber, ajc, 13 Sep. 2022 Yet Americans are still desperate for cars, Buckberg said, which has allowed dealers to keep their markups much higher than pre-pandemic levels. Christopher Rugaber, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Sep. 2022 And then when the final preseason game ended, no team was desperate for a starting quarterback, and Garoppolo was out of options, things moved quickly. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Aug. 2022 And with cold days fast approaching, our lips, skin, and even plants will soon be desperate for extra moisture. Annie Burdick, Peoplemag, 23 Aug. 2022 Her husband, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), is desperate for a son in order to secure a male heir to the throne, in accordance with tradition. Brian Lowry, CNN, 22 Aug. 2022 Jack’s become a star employee and is desperate for his boss’s approval. Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone, 22 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of desperate

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

History and Etymology for desperate

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

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

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Last Updated

22 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Desperate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for desperate


des·​per·​ate | \ ˈde-spə-rət How to pronounce desperate (audio) , -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.

More from Merriam-Webster on desperate

Nglish: Translation of desperate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of desperate for Arabic Speakers


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