[ dih-spair ]
See synonyms for: despairdespairing on

  1. loss of hope; hopelessness.

  2. someone or something that causes hopelessness: He is the despair of his mother.

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

First recorded in 1275–1325; Middle English despeir (noun), despeiren (verb), from Anglo-French despeir, Old French despoir (noun), desperer (verb), from Latin dēspērāre “to be without hope,” from 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.

Other words for despair

Opposites for despair

Other words from despair

  • de·spair·er, noun
  • self-de·spair, noun
  • un·de·spaired, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use despair in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for despair


/ (dɪˈspɛə) /

  1. (intr often foll by of) to lose or give up hope: I 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

Origin of 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