[ dih-spair-ing ]
/ dɪˈspɛər ɪŋ /
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given to despair or hopelessness.
indicating despair: a despairing look.
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
Question 1 of 7
“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of despairing

First recorded in 1585–95; despair + -ing2

synonym study for despairing

1. See hopeless.


de·spair·ing·ly, adverbun·de·spair·ing, adjectiveun·de·spair·ing·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does despairing mean?

Despairing is an adjective that describes people who are experiencing despair—complete hopelessness.

The word despair is also commonly used as a verb meaning to lose all hope, and despairing comes from the continuous tense (-ing form) of the verb.

A despairing person is usually someone who is deeply sad 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.

It often implies that one is giving up—that they believe there is nothing more to be done to make things better.

Despairing can also be used to describe things that involve or show despair, as in a despairing look. 

Example: The despairing players stared in disbelief at the scoreboard, which showed an insurmountable lead with only minutes left.

Where does despairing come from?

The first records of the word despairing as an adjective come from around 1600. Its base word, despair, 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, the despairing hero is at their lowest point, in the depths of despair—the rock bottom of hopelessness. This usually happens 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 despairing?

  • despairingly (adverb)
  • undespairing (adjective)
  • undespairingly (adverb)
  • despair (noun, verb)

What are some synonyms for despairing?

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

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

How is despairing used in real life?

Despairing is usually used in the context of serious situations, such as the death of a loved one or some other painful loss.



Try using despairing!

Which of the following words is a synonym of despairing?

A. despondent
B. desperate
C. hopeless
D. all of the above

How to use despairing in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for despairing

/ (dɪˈspɛərɪŋ) /

marked by or resulting from despair; hopeless or desperate

Derived forms of despairing

despairingly, adverb
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