[ des-per-it, -prit ]
See synonyms for desperate on
  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.

  1. leaving little or no hope; very serious or dangerous: a desperate illness.

  2. extremely bad; intolerable or shocking: clothes in desperate taste.

  3. extreme or excessive.

  4. making a final, ultimate effort; giving all: a desperate attempt to save a life.

  5. actuated by a feeling of hopelessness.

  6. having no hope; giving in to despair.

  1. Obsolete. a desperado.

Origin of desperate

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Latin dēspērātus, past participle of dēspērāre “to be without hope, despair”; see despair, -ate1

synonym study For desperate

3. See hopeless.

Other words for desperate

Opposites for desperate

Other words from desperate

  • des·per·ate·ly, adverb
  • des·per·ate·ness, noun
  • qua·si-des·per·ate, adjective

Words that may be confused with desperate Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use desperate in a sentence

  • And in the desperateness of it, in the fierce height to which his battling temper had arisen, he had killed his man.

    The Man in the Twilight | Ridgwell Cullum
  • The inroads of hunger were already experienced; and this knowledge of the desperateness of my calamity urged me to frenzy.

    Edgar Huntley | Charles Brockden Brown
  • From General Lee's letters, official and private, one gets a clear view of the desperateness of his position.

    Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee | (His Son) Captain Robert E. Lee
  • A lady visitor was groaning politically to Madame de Girardin over the desperateness of the situation.

  • Then she paused with them in her hand, and the desperateness of the venture nearly overwhelmed her.

    The Moving Finger | Mary Gaunt

British Dictionary definitions for desperate


/ (ˈdɛspərɪt, -prɪt) /

  1. careless of danger, as from despair; utterly reckless

  2. (of an act) reckless; risky

  1. used or undertaken in desperation or as a last resort: desperate measures

  2. critical; very grave: in desperate need

  3. (often postpositive and foll by for) in distress and having a great need or desire

  4. moved by or showing despair or hopelessness; despairing

Origin of desperate

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

Derived forms of desperate

  • desperately, adverb
  • desperateness, noun

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