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

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Other Words from desperate

desperateness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for desperate



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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 hordes that have participated in High Holy Day services in past years proved a captive audience for synagogues in desperate need of a financial boost. Lois K. Solomon,, "The latest challenge in Jewish history: COVID-19 Rosh Hashanah," 17 Sep. 2020 After finishing near the bottom of the ACC in total offense last season, the Hurricanes were in desperate need of a fresh start. Matt Murschel,, "10 things we learned during college football weekend," 14 Sep. 2020 The Wings are in desperate need of a player who dominates and makes those around him better. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Steve Yzerman must nail 2020 draft pick for Red Wings' rebuild to succeed. Here's why," 13 Sep. 2020 At one point in the documentary, Carter recalls how the Allman Brothers Band helped raise money for him when his campaign was in desperate need of cash. Spencer Neale, Washington Examiner, "Jimmy Carter acknowledges son smoked pot with Willie Nelson on White House roof," 11 Sep. 2020 Formulated with keratin, ginger oil, and roses hand-harvested from Grasse, a few drops is enough to transform hair that's in desperate need of hydration. Tatjana Freund, Marie Claire, "Why Rose1845's Hair Oil Is Worth It," 26 Aug. 2020 Fashion’s embrace of circularity and upcycling is welcome, but that doesn’t address the desperate need to slash our volume of consumption. Vogue, "15 Designers, Scientists, and Environmental Activists—From Ayesha Barenblat to Stella McCartney—On Sustaining the Fashion Industry," 2 Sep. 2020 The following data is evidence that the fitness industry is in desperate need for change: Black populated areas are 51% more likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic Whites. SELF, "Fit For Us: An Open Letter to the Fitness Industry," 1 Sep. 2020 Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, said hospitals are in desperate need of the dollars. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Memorial island, wildlife upside, theater troubles: News from around our 50 states," 1 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for desperate

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for desperate

Last Updated

21 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Desperate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for desperate


How to pronounce desperate (audio)

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 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.

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