• synonyms


[des-per-it, -prit]
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  1. reckless or dangerous because of despair, hopelessness, or urgency: a desperate killer.
  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.
  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.
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  1. Obsolete. a desperado.
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Origin of desperate

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin dēspērātus, past participle of dēspērāre to despair; see -ate1
Related formsdes·per·ate·ly, adverbdes·per·ate·ness, nounqua·si-des·per·ate, adjectivequa·si-des·per·ate·ly, adverb
Can be confuseddesperate disparate


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Synonym study

3. See hopeless.


1. careful. 3, 8. hopeful.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for desperately

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "We'll get the best lawyers in the country," Mary persisted, desperately.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • "I've refused all these to Uncle Timothy; he's been worrying me with questions—" I said desperately.

  • But he, having laughed at love all his life, loved her deeply, desperately.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • She felt, desperately, that she could not let him go until he had had some real joy.


    Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius

  • I want you to love me, love me desperately, the way I love you.

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

British Dictionary definitions for desperately


  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 resortdesperate measures
  4. critical; very gravein desperate need
  5. (often postpositive 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 Formsdesperately, adverbdesperateness, noun

Word Origin

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



early 15c., "despairing, hopeless," from Latin desperatus "given up, despaired of," past participle of desperare (see despair (v.)). Sense of "driven to recklessness" is from late 15c.; weakened sense of "having a great desire for" is from 1950s. Related: Desperately.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper