Definition of desolate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdɛs(ə)lət/
1(Of a place) uninhabited and giving an impression of bleak emptiness: a desolate Pennine moor
More example sentences
  • She was now staring at a bleak and desolate landscape with nothing in the horizon but impassable mountains and valleys.
  • We can't begin to imagine how the geologists survived so long in this wild and desolate place.
  • There lay the great, rolling mattress of the Moor, a vast and desolate place protected on all its sides by uprearing mountains.
barren, bleak, stark, bare, dismal, grim;
desert, waste, arid, sterile;
wild, windswept, inhospitable, exposed
deserted, uninhabited, unoccupied, depopulated, forsaken, godforsaken, abandoned, unpeopled, untenanted, evacuated;
empty, vacated, vacant;
unfrequented, unvisited, solitary, lonely, secluded, isolated, remote
2Feeling or showing great unhappiness or loneliness: I suddenly felt desolate and bereft
More example sentences
  • Eventually, Jasmine's more volatile emotions faded away of their own accord to be replaced by a feeling of desolate loneliness.
  • Lyall stood in the middle of the yard, desolate and bereft, not sure what to do or think.
  • My fellow writers if my words have left you feeling a trifle depressed and desolate, cheer up.
miserable, sad, unhappy, melancholy, gloomy, glum, despondent, comfortless, depressed, mournful, disconsolate;
broken-hearted, heavy-hearted, grief-stricken;
wretched, downcast, cast down, dejected, downhearted, dispirited, devastated, despairing, inconsolable, anguished, crushed, forlorn, crestfallen, upset, distressed, grieving, woebegone, bereft, in low spirits
informal blue, down, cut up


Pronunciation: /ˈdɛsəleɪt/
[with object]
1Make (a place) appear bleakly empty: the droughts that desolated the dry plains
More example sentences
  • They carried out Richard's orders to the letter, his arches and calvary slaughtered all before them, burned villages, raided and took cattle herds and desolated the countryside.
  • Amazingly, this visual effect neither turns the scene arty nor drains it of its excitement, but it does suggest that none of this violence has anything to do with the real violence that destroys people and desolates the earth.
  • Finally, in the far distance, the plague's desolating effects are full-blown: the city has been abandoned by the able-bodied, and civilized communication is no longer possible.
devastate, ravage, ruin, make/leave desolate, leave in ruins, destroy, wreck, lay waste to, wreak havoc on;
level, raze, demolish, wipe out, obliterate, annihilate, gut;
depopulate, empty
rare depredate, spoliate
2Make (someone) feel utterly wretched and unhappy: he was desolated by the deaths of his treasured friends
More example sentences
  • The death of his only son while on service desolated him: ‘My grief has condemned me to hard labour for the rest of my life.’
  • Oh dear me, it desolates me to inform you that I will not be able to update either of my stories for about ten days.
  • No fellow human being could be surprised, wrote Edward to King Alfonso as one father to another, if we were inwardly desolated by the sting of this bitter grief, for we are human, too.
dishearten, dispirit, daunt, distress, depress, make sad/unhappy, sadden, cast down, deject, make miserable, make gloomy/despondent, weigh down, oppress
informal shatter, floor



Pronunciation: /ˈdɛsələtli/
Example sentences
  • We pass signs, neon signs stacked upon neon signs, and desolately quiet cul-de-sacs where dim square windows of light hint a little of lives tucked neatly in apartments, hidden out of sight.
  • I still remember a lover's quarrel last February when I'd walked desolately along Madison Avenue, only to come across a small crowd gathered around the store.
  • ‘Take it easy, I'm over it,’ she said softly, desolately.


Pronunciation: /ˈdɛsələtnəs/
Example sentences
  • I remember I was driving from Leh to Manali and seeing the desolateness I told my wife this was the perfect place to die.
  • Part of what was startling about the book was its desolateness, its apparent lack of pleasure in anything to do with the sport.
  • He reined Eryn in and gazed at it; looked at the rugged desolateness of the camp and thought, I left Kefari for this…


Pronunciation: /ˈdɛsəleɪtə/
Example sentences
  • It is they who have been the greatest desolators of the world.
  • These are indeed abominable; but they are not desolators.
  • Some of these legends, so vague and so conflicting, are still preserved in the memories of aged men and white-haired matrons, who will sit by the hour and describe the gradual change which time and improvement, those twin desolators of the beautiful, had accomplished with Monk-hall.


Late Middle English: from Latin desolatus 'abandoned', past participle of desolare, from de- 'thoroughly' + solus 'alone'.

  • sole from Middle English:

    There are three different words ‘sole’ in English. The two nouns are connected: the word for the under part of the foot comes via French from Latin solea ‘sandal, sill’, from solum ‘ground, sole’. The word was re-borrowed for the flat-fish, because its shape is reminiscent of a sole. The adjective for ‘only’ comes from Latin solus ‘alone’, source of solitary (Middle English), desolate (Late Middle English), and the musical solo (late 17th century). Solitaire (early 18th century), both the single stone in its setting and the card game played by yourself, comes from the same source.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: deso|late

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