despair

1 of 2

noun

de·​spair di-ˈsper How to pronounce despair (audio)
1
: utter loss of hope
a cry of despair
gave up in despair
2
: a cause of hopelessness
an incorrigible child is the despair of his parents

despair

2 of 2

verb

despaired; despairing; despairs

intransitive verb

: to lose all hope or confidence
despair of winning

transitive verb

obsolete : to lose hope for
despairer noun

Example Sentences

Noun On the occasion of Johnson's tercentenary, Martin (A Life of James Boswell) searches out the psychological elements covered up by Boswell and others: the immense insecurities, bouts of deep depression, corrosive self-doubt and, in his last days, despair for his very soul. Publishers Weekly, 21 July 2008 Players who'd been on the 2004 Olympic team joked about whether their two bronze medals equaled one silver. There was none of the despair or finger-pointing that followed the world championships in '02, when Team USA finished sixth. Kelly Anderson, Sports Illustrated, 11 Sept. 2006 The people who try to save endangered species in Hawaii are immune to despair. They have to be, to keep doing what they do. Lawrence Downes, New York Times, 19 Dec. 2004 His despair nearly drove him mad. I was overcome by despair at being unable to find them. She finally gave up in despair. The people were driven to despair by the horrors of war. This latest setback has brought her to the depths of despair. Verb It is possible that at this stage Caesar had not altogether despaired of a consensual solution to the difficulties facing the Republic. Anthony Everitt, Cicero, (2001) 2003 Sometimes it is hard not to despair about relations between men and women in American society. They seem to have hit rock bottom. Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, New Republic, 6 May 2002 Yet, until very recently, Alzheimer's was so poorly understood that scientists despaired of finding a treatment, much less a cure. Ken Garber, Technology, March 2001 Things look bad now, but don't despair. we despaired when we saw how little time we had left to complete our project See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Sometimes the same image that inspires hope for some provokes despair in others. Time, 23 Nov. 2022 The cries of despair from these young Iranians have not yet coalesced into a revolutionary moment. Jonathan Spyer, WSJ, 17 Nov. 2022 In 2021, 17 soldiers died by suicide, including eight over four months late in the year as winter descended on the state, daylight shortened and despair deepened. Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY, 14 Nov. 2022 But just off the property, Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), one of Dutton’s ranch hands, lays back, surveying the scene with a laconic despair. Daniel Bessner, The New Republic, 14 Nov. 2022 In the effort to try to solve the crime of bike theft themselves, the group’s members have come close to a world of violence and despair that lurks barely below the surface of this beautiful place and, at times, bursts into the open. Michael Corkery, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Nov. 2022 In the effort to try to solve the crime of bike theft themselves, the group’s members have come close to a world of violence and despair that lurks barely below the surface of this beautiful place and, at times, bursts into the open. Michael Corkery Andres Kudacki, New York Times, 12 Nov. 2022 In an excerpt from his new biography, TV legend William Shatner describes a feeling of despair triggered by his record-setting 2021 trip to space. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 9 Nov. 2022 The healthier alternative to such despair is mourning, which for Lear is a more expansive activity than just grieving a loss. Daniel Oppenheimer, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2022
Verb
That said, Geminis are deeply independent, and not likely to despair too much should a relationship end. Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY, 20 Oct. 2022 Analysts say that while prices are up compared with prior years, consumers need not despair completely. Allison Pohle, WSJ, 11 Aug. 2022 Critics and online pundits despair over the Jurassic World films as the nadir of modern blockbuster filmmaking (especially as Jurassic World opened just as Transformers had peaked), but audiences young and old show up and mostly have a good time. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 10 June 2022 Well, New Yorkers will hopefully have to despair for only a little bit longer: The restaurant has drawn interest from a number of buyers, and hopefully the city will act quickly to fill the space. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 15 Aug. 2022 If a buyer is not in a financial position to fund the equity investment to the deal (the down payment), do not despair or give up. Richard Parker, Forbes, 10 July 2022 There are as many reading appetites as there are readers, so if your favorite book of 2022 doesn't make our list, don't despair. Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, 24 May 2022 Over the next week and a half, the Widderses rode an emotional roller coaster, elated by seeming improvements, only to despair over indicators of the severe damage to their daughter’s liver. Lena H. Sun, Washington Post, 17 May 2022 This purchase behavior targeting presents as one of many reasons not to despair in digital marketing this year. Anil Malhotra, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'despair.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English despeir, despair, borrowed from Anglo-French despeir, despoir, noun derivative of desperer (tonic stem despeir-) "to lose hope or confidence, despair entry 2"

Verb

Middle English despeiren, despairen, dispairen "to lose hope or confidence, be discouraged," borrowed from Anglo-French despeir-, tonic stem of desperer, going back to Latin dēspērāre "to give up as hopeless, despair of," from dē- de- + spērāre "to look forward to, hope for, hope (that)," verbal derivative of *spēs-, presumed alternate stem of spēs, spem "hope, expectation" perhaps by analogy with vīr-, vīs "strength, force" — more at speed entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of despair was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near despair

Cite this Entry

“Despair.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/despair. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

despair 1 of 2

verb

de·​spair di-ˈspa(ə)r How to pronounce despair (audio)
-ˈspe(ə)r
: to lose all hope or confidence
despair of winning

despair

2 of 2

noun

1
: utter loss of hope : feeling of complete hopelessness
2
: a cause of hopelessness

More from Merriam-Webster on despair

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