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


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

Government officials warned that rescue efforts were being suspended because of the severity of the storm, leaving desperate, stranded residents on their own. Washington Post, "‘I’m begging you, pray for us’: Slow-moving Dorian wreaks devastation in Bahamas," 3 Sep. 2019 Government officials warned that rescue efforts were being suspended because of the severity of the storm, leaving desperate, stranded residents on their own. Author: Jasper Ward, Anthony Faiola, Anchorage Daily News, "‘Bahamas is presently at war’: Slow-moving Dorian wreaks devastation across island nation," 2 Sep. 2019 With Maurizio Sarri's side desperate for defensive cover, Football Italia report that Juve may turn to Bayern outcast Boateng to bolster their options at the back., "Juventus Prepare Bid for Bayern Munich Outcast Jerome Boateng Amid Injury Crisis," 1 Sep. 2019 Know Constance has come into thirteen like Juliet Capulet, lovesick, desperate, a pawn in the vagaries of jousting boys. Kate Walbert, The New Yorker, "To Do," 26 Aug. 2019 The Brewers are desperate to rediscover that magic. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Diamondbacks 5, Brewers 2: Davies struggles again and bats can't overcome early deficit," 25 Aug. 2019 In those first days of the Trump era, Google's leaders were desperate to avoid confrontation with the new regime. Nitasha Tiku, WIRED, "Three Years of Misery Inside Google, the Happiest Company in Tech," 13 Aug. 2019 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, flailing and desperate for attention, eagerly picked up on the prompts given him by former Democratic political staffers turned TV news anchors. John Kass, Twin Cities, "John Kass: Weaponizing the dead of El Paso and Dayton," 9 Aug. 2019 Knowing that the Foxes were desperate for a centre-back, they were quoted £40m for James Tarkowski by Burnley, £45m for Lewis Dunk by Brighton, and most sensationally of all, £75m for Nathan Ake by Bournemouth., "Caglar Soyuncu: Why Lord Farquhar Is a Ready Made Harry Maguire Replacement," 21 Aug. 2019

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

8 Sep 2019

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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 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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Comments on desperate

What made you want to look up desperate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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