verb (used without object)
  1. to lose, give up, or be without hope (often followed by of): to despair of humanity.
verb (used with object)
  1. Obsolete. to give up hope of.

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
Related formsde·spair·er, nounself-de·spair, nounun·de·spaired, adjective

Synonyms for despair

Synonym study

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.

Antonyms for despair

1. hope. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for despaired

Contemporary Examples of despaired

Historical Examples of despaired

  • Phoebe, looking at her attentively, despaired of getting any nearer the truth from any of them.

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • I take cases that others have despaired of, and I cure them right off.

  • Had SHE ever despaired of seeing him again—on this earth and in the flesh?

    The Portygee

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • His life was despaired of, and those about him began to suspect some evil spell.

    The Phantom World

    Augustin Calmet

  • Madame, you see, despaired by now of controlling the impropriety of her niece's expressions.


    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for despaired


  1. (intr often foll by of) to lose or give up hopeI despair of his coming
  2. (tr) obsolete to give up hope of; lose hope in
  1. total loss of hope
  2. 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

Word Origin and History for despaired



c.1300, from Anglo-French despeir, Old French despoir, from desperer (see despair (v.)). Replaced native wanhope.



early 14c., from stem of Old French desperer "be dismayed, lose hope, despair," from Latin desperare "to despair, to lose all hope," from de- "without" + sperare "to hope," from spes "hope" (see speed). Related: Despaired; despairing; despairingly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper