[des-puh-rah-doh, -rey-]
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noun, plural des·per·a·does, des·per·a·dos.
  1. a bold, reckless criminal or outlaw, especially in the early days of the American West.

Origin of desperado

1600–10; probably pseudo-Spanish alteration of desperate (as noun, now obsolete), in same sense Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for desperado


noun plural -does or -dos
  1. a reckless or desperate person, esp one ready to commit any violent illegal act

Word Origin for desperado

C17: probably pseudo-Spanish variant of obsolete desperate (n) a reckless character
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 desperado

c.1600, "a person in despair," mock-Spanish version of desperate (n.) "reckless criminal" (1560s), from Latin desperatus (see desperation). There was an adjective desperado in Old Spanish, meaning "out of hope, desperate," but apparently it never was used as a noun and it probably has nothing to do with the English word. Meaning "a desperate or reckless man" is recorded from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper