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[adjective des-uh-lit; verb des-uh-leyt] /adjective ˈdɛs ə lɪt; verb ˈdɛs əˌleɪt/
barren or laid waste; devastated:
a treeless, desolate landscape.
deprived or destitute of inhabitants; deserted; uninhabited.
solitary; lonely:
a desolate place.
having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.
dreary; dismal; gloomy:
desolate prospects.
verb (used with object), desolated, desolating.
to lay waste; devastate.
to deprive of inhabitants; depopulate.
to make disconsolate.
to forsake or abandon.
Origin of desolate
1325-75; Middle English < Latin dēsōlātus forsaken, past participle of dēsōlāre, equivalent to dē- de- + sōlāre to make lonely, derivative of sōlus sole1; see -ate1
Related forms
desolately, adverb
desolateness, noun
desolater, desolator, noun
quasi-desolate, adjective
quasi-desolately, adverb
Can be confused
desolate, dissolute (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. ravaged. 2. desert. 4. lonesome, lost; miserable, wretched, woebegone, woeful, inconsolable, cheerless, hopeless. Desolate, disconsolate, forlorn suggest one who is in a sad and wretched condition. The desolate person is deprived of human consolation, relationships, or presence: desolate and despairing. The disconsolate person is aware of the efforts of others to console and comfort, but is unable to be relieved or cheered by them: She remained disconsolate even in the midst of friends. The forlorn person is lost, deserted, or forsaken by friends: wretched and forlorn in a strange city. 6. ravage, ruin. 8. sadden, depress. 9. desert.
4. delighted, happy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for desolately
Historical Examples
  • George walked on with them, desolately aware of many factors of his life gone awry.

    The Guarded Heights Wadsworth Camp
  • "We are now about to get all the news of the neighbourhood," she said desolately.

    Love at Paddington W. Pett Ridge
  • She stayed all day in a flat, desolately quiet, waiting for one moment when the dearest and best came home.

    Married Life May Edginton
  • I could not prompt him to go on, but he presently did so himself, desolately enough.

    Questionable Shapes William Dean Howells
  • "I know that you will do whatever you have made up your mind to do," said Lucian, desolately.

    Cashel Byron's Profession George Bernard Shaw
  • "The house won't be like a home without you," said he desolately.

    Our Square and the People in It Samuel Hopkins Adams
  • Notwithstanding a night as delightful as could be imagined, to-day it rained nearly all day most desolately.

    An Artilleryman's Diary Jenkin Lloyd Jones
  • The square was silent; desolately silent, as only a suburban square can be.

    Basil Wilkie Collins
  • Joy got the train with a desolately long interval of waiting at the station.

    The Wishing-Ring Man Margaret Widdemer
  • For, methinks, I have been kept a great while from you, desolately alone.

British Dictionary definitions for desolately


adjective (ˈdɛsəlɪt)
uninhabited; deserted
made uninhabitable; laid waste; devastated
without friends, hope, or encouragement; forlorn, wretched, or abandoned
gloomy or dismal; depressing
verb (transitive) (ˈdɛsəˌleɪt)
to deprive of inhabitants; depopulate
to make barren or lay waste; devastate
to make wretched or forlorn
to forsake or abandon
Derived Forms
desolater, desolator, noun
desolately, adverb
desolateness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin dēsōlāre to leave alone, from de- + sōlāre to make lonely, lay waste, from sōlus alone
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for desolately



mid-14c., "without companions," also "uninhabited," from Latin desolatus, past participle of desolare "leave alone, desert," from de- "completely" (see de-) + solare "make lonely," from solus "alone" (see sole (adj.)). Sense of "joyless" is 15c.


late 14c., from desolate (adj.). Related: Desolated; desolating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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