1. Having lost all hope; despairing.
2. Marked by, arising from, or showing despair: the desperate look of hunger; a desperate cry for help.
3. Reckless or violent because of despair: a desperate criminal.
4. Undertaken out of extreme urgency or as a last resort: a desperate attempt to save the family business.
5. Nearly hopeless; critical: a desperate illness; a desperate situation.
6. Suffering or driven by great need or distress: desperate for recognition.
7. Extremely intense: felt a desperate urge to tell the truth.
[Middle English desperat, from Latin dēspērātus, past participle of dēspērāre, to despair; see DESPAIR.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.