View synonyms for desperate


[ des-per-it, -prit ]


  1. reckless or dangerous because of despair, hopelessness, or urgency:

    a desperate killer.

    Synonyms: frantic, rash

    Antonyms: careful

  2. having an urgent need, desire, etc.:

    desperate for attention;

    desperate to find a job.

  3. leaving little or no hope; very serious or dangerous:

    a desperate illness.

    Synonyms: grave

    Antonyms: hopeful

  4. extremely bad; intolerable or shocking:

    clothes in desperate taste.

  5. extreme or excessive.
  6. making a final, ultimate effort; giving all:

    a desperate attempt to save a life.

  7. actuated by a feeling of hopelessness.
  8. having no hope; giving in to despair.

    Synonyms: desolate, forlorn

    Antonyms: hopeful


  1. Obsolete. a desperado.


/ ˈdɛspərɪt; -prɪt /


  1. careless of danger, as from despair; utterly reckless
  2. (of an act) reckless; risky
  3. used or undertaken in desperation or as a last resort

    desperate measures

  4. critical; very grave

    in desperate need

  5. oftenpostpositive and foll by for in distress and having a great need or desire
  6. moved by or showing despair or hopelessness; despairing

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Derived Forms

  • ˈdesperately, adverb
  • ˈdesperateness, noun
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Other Words From

  • des·per·ate·ly adverb
  • des·per·ate·ness noun
  • qua·si-des·per·ate adjective
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Word History and Origins

Origin of desperate1

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Latin dēspērātus, past participle of dēspērāre “to be without hope, despair”; despair, -ate 1
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Word History and Origins

Origin of desperate1

C15: from Latin dēspērāre to have no hope; see despair
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Synonym Study

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Example Sentences

“It’s a desperate ploy by somebody who understands that he’s in a fight for his life,” Harrison said of Graham’s recent political play.

According to Gerard Bush, who co-wrote and co-directed the movie with his husband Christopher Renz, he dreamed that a desperate woman was trying to reach out across the dimensions for help.

Six months later, we're back to the old normal — even though many remain desperate for assistance.

From Axios

By contrast, Quasimodo is literally confined physically to the “closet” of the church, but his longing for freedom is soaring and desperate and inspiring.

From Vox

While Kumar and his team were thinking about how to keep the business afloat, they were spurred into action because of the desperate calls they were getting from their guide partners, some even requesting small loans to make ends meet.

From Quartz

We might have thought The Comeback was about a desperate actress's shameless struggle for fame.

Brinsley got out of jail last July, and was desperate and aimless.

After what seemed a desperate eternity, a doctor shook his head.

Sam watches her fall apart, tear herself apart and is desperate.

Then he began stuttering the word “I … I … I …” as if he were making a last desperate attempt to define himself.

The remaining one struggled for another half-minute, and flared up in one last, desperate effort.

The letter was the swift and desperate sequel to several days' absolutely sterile reflection.

But the desperate resistance they encountered compelled them to abandon the island with the loss of 25,000 men.

They are sometimes obstinate and are desperate fighters, squealing and neighing on all occasions.

He will rattle on in Spanish till Herr S. gets desperate, and tries to reduce him to order.