Definition of desperate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdɛsp(ə)rət/


1Feeling or showing a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with: a desperate sadness enveloped Ruth
More example sentences
  • Obviously this risks failure to treat in situations that are desperate but not hopeless.
  • There are millions just like them, inhabiting the depths of poverty and hopelessness, suicidal and desperate.
  • Trying to live up to the impossible hype, the desperate clamour.
anguished, distressed, in despair, suicidal;
miserable, wretched, desolate;
forlorn, disheartened, discouraged, demoralized, devastated, downcast, resigned, defeatist, pessimistic;
distraught, fraught, overcome, out of one's mind, at one's wits' end, beside oneself, at the end of one's tether
literary dolorous
1.1(Of an act) tried in despair or when everything else has failed: drugs used in a desperate attempt to save his life
More example sentences
  • Charles took this desperate act in an attempt to reinforce his position in Germany.
  • In a last, desperate act to save himself, James looked at his watch and pretended to be shocked.
  • Because of this realism, though, the final desperate act of the movie is unlikely.
last-ditch, last-chance, last-resort, last-minute, last-gasp, eleventh-hour, all-out, do-or-die, final;
frantic, frenzied, wild, straining;
futile, hopeless, doomed, lost
1.2(Of a situation) extremely serious or dangerous: there is a desperate shortage of teachers
More example sentences
  • Well Lane was the most dangerous, and was an extremely fast road in desperate need of a pedestrian crossing, she said.
  • ‘No-one would leave their house and family if they were not in a desperate situation, in danger of their life,’ he says.
  • Private firms are cashing in on the desperate shortage of school teachers.
grave, serious, dangerous, risky, perilous, hazardous, precarious, critical, acute;
dire, very bad, calamitous, appalling, awful, terrible, frightful, dreadful, outrageous, intolerable, deplorable, lamentable, sorry, poor;
informal lousy, chronic
archaic or humorous parlous
urgent, pressing, compelling, crying;
acute, critical, crucial, vital, drastic, serious, grave, dire, extreme, great
formal exigent
1.3(Of a person) violent or dangerous: a desperate criminal
More example sentences
  • The Narcotics Branch arrested a desperate criminal.
  • And it's blowing the lid off of everything that experts believe about the most desperate and dangerous people on earth.
  • The only person that would commit such a deed would be a desperate criminal, accustomed to a life of outlawry.
violent, dangerous, lawless;
reckless, rash, hasty, impetuous, foolhardy, incautious;
death-or-glory, do-or-die, hazardous, risky
1.4Irish informal Very bad: that beer’s desperate—it’s a wonder you’ve the nerve to offer it for sale
More example sentences
  • As usual in February the weather was desperate with a blizzard and white out conditions as we arrived at car park.
  • The weather was desperate - 10 degrees and savagely wet but we still loved every minute, and I think that speaks volumes for this place.
2 [predicative] (Of a person) having a great need or desire for something: I am desperate for a cigarette [with infinitive]: other women are desperate to get back to work
More example sentences
  • I was so desperate for the object of my craving that I almost blurted out, ‘Are you going to buy that?’
  • They were desperate for somebody to do something.
  • ‘We are desperate for community facilities in the area and here we have something that works, so we should just leave it alone,’ he told the meeting.
in great need of, urgently requiring, craving, in want of, lacking, wanting;
informal dying


desperate diseases must have desperate remedies

proverb Extreme measures are justified as a response to a difficult or dangerous situation: she resorted to even more desperate remedies



Pronunciation: /ˈdɛsp(ə)rətnəs/
Example sentences
  • She showed the desperateness of suffering, a woman's incredible patience with injustice and finally, a lowbrow grace that is not common in a world filled with pretensions.
  • And then we looked at each other for just a moment, one still moment, before the desperateness took over and we were clinging to each other as tightly as we dared.
  • Sally begged and there was desperateness in her tone.


Late Middle English (in the sense 'in despair'): from Latin desperatus 'deprived of hope', past participle of desperare (see despair).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: des|per|ate

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