[ dih-spair ]
/ dɪˈspɛər /
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See synonyms for: despair / despairing on Thesaurus.com

loss of hope; hopelessness.
someone or something that causes hopelessness: He is the despair of his mother.
verb (used without object)
to lose, give up, or be without hope (often followed by of): to despair of humanity.
verb (used with object)
Obsolete. to give up hope of.
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Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of despair

1275–1325; Middle English despeir (noun), despeiren (v.) <Anglo-French despeir,Old French despoir (noun), despeir-, tonic stem of desperer (v.) <Latin dēspērāre to be without hope, equivalent to dē-de- + spērāre to hope, derivative of spēs hope

synonym study for despair

1. Despair, desperation, despondency, discouragement, hopelessness refer to a state of mind caused by circumstances that seem too much to cope with. Despair suggests total loss of hope, which may be passive or may drive one to furious efforts, even if at random: in the depths of despair; courage born of despair. Desperation is usually an active state, the abandonment of hope impelling to a furious struggle against adverse circumstances, with utter disregard of consequences: an act of desperation when everything else had failed. Despondency is a state of deep gloom and disheartenment: a spell of despondency. Discouragement is a loss of courage, hope, and ambition because of obstacles, frustrations, etc.: His optimism yielded to discouragement. Hopelessness is a loss of hope so complete as to result in a more or less permanent state of passive despair: a state of hopelessness and apathy.


de·spair·er, nounself-de·spair, nounun·de·spaired, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does despair mean?

To despair is to lose all hope. Despair can also be used as a noun meaning complete hopelessness.

Despair usually involves deep sadness and emotional pain about something that has happened or that hasn’t happened—something usually triggers the despair. This is especially the case in serious and very negative situations that involve finality, such as death or a devastating loss in a political election.

The verb despair implies that one is giving up—that they believe there is nothing more to be done to make things better. When someone says, “Don’t despair,” they’re telling you not to lose hope—to keep trying or to believe that things can improve.

When used as a verb, despair is sometimes followed by the word of and the thing for which hope has been lost, as in I have despaired of her ever coming back. 

Much less commonly, despair can be used as a noun referring to someone or something that causes despair, as in He is the despair of the nation. 

The word despairing can be used as an adjective to describe people who are experiencing despair or things that involve despair, as in a despairing look. 

Example: He was filled with despair at the sight of the scoreboard, which showed an insurmountable lead with only minutes left.

Where does despair come from?

The first records of the word despair come from around 1300. It comes from the Latin verb dēspērāre, meaning “to be without hope” (the adjective desperate is based on the same root). Remember: at the heart of despair, there is hope—its ultimate root is the Latin root spēs, meaning “hope.”

You know the moment in the story when the hero loses all hope? In that moment, they are in despair. Despair is often seen as the lowest point, and it’s often used in the phrase the depths of despair—the rock bottom of hopelessness. Despair usually comes when it looks like there is no way out of what seems like a hopeless situation, or when it seems like there is no longer a way to win, succeed, or overcome evil. And yet, in many cases, hope springs eternal.

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What are some other forms related to despair?

  • despairing (continuous tense verb, adjective)
  • despairer (noun)
  • self-despair (noun)

What are some synonyms for despair?

What are some words that share a root or word element with despair

What are some words that often get used in discussing despair?

How is despair used in real life?

Despair is commonly used as both a verb and a noun. It’s usually used in the context of serious situations, such as the death of a loved one or some other painful loss.


Try using despair!

Which of the following words is a synonym of despair?

A. anguish
B. desperation
C. hopelessness
D. all of the above

How to use despair in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for despair

/ (dɪˈspɛə) /

(intr often foll by of) to lose or give up hopeI despair of his coming
(tr) obsolete to give up hope of; lose hope in
total loss of hope
a person or thing that causes hopelessness or for which there is no hope

Word Origin for despair

C14: from Old French despoir hopelessness, from desperer to despair, from Latin dēspērāre, from de- + spērāre to hope
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