Definition of desperate in English:



  • 1Feeling or showing a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with:

    ‘a desperate sadness enveloped Ruth’
    • ‘I had to juggle my exterior apparent happiness and my inner desperate sense of worthlessness.’
    • ‘There are millions just like them, inhabiting the depths of poverty and hopelessness, suicidal and desperate.’
    • ‘Paradoxically, the political situation is so desperate, so apparently hopeless, that everyone understands the responsibility of casting their vote.’
    • ‘Obviously this risks failure to treat in situations that are desperate but not hopeless.’
    • ‘I sudden felt a desperate sadness that someday she would not be there, or I would not be there for her.’
    • ‘Their situation is becoming increasingly desperate, with deep depression and anguish.’
    • ‘Racing back to where he had begun digging, he kneeled next to the hole and began scooping out dirt with his bare hands, too desperate to deal with the hassle of a shovel.’
    • ‘The school appears without life - a place where one feels a desperate sense of loss.’
    • ‘Trying to live up to the impossible hype, the desperate clamour.’
    • ‘We may feel hopeless or fearful or desperate and still we have to go on.’
    • ‘There is no sense of self-pity or desperate longing for the outside world, tempting as that must be.’
    • ‘The money does not exist, in the form of money-capital, to bring these economies out of this desperate, hopeless state.’
    • ‘He had clung to it when times seemed desperate and hopeless, but he had refused to think he and his sisters deserved what they got.’
    • ‘Because of the growing link between education and income, the least educated are living increasingly desperate and hopeless lives.’
    • ‘She was almost choking on a desperate sense of panic that she couldn't quite explain.’
    • ‘He looked around, at his sleeping, praying, card-playing colleagues, and he felt a desperate sense of weight across his shoulders.’
    • ‘He nodded eagerly, sensing my desperate tone in my voice.’
    • ‘She is reading and her eerie tranquility hides a desperate sadness.’
    • ‘In contrast, private efforts offer a small start to deal with desperate poverty.’
    • ‘And a lonely woman longs to have a reason for her sadness beyond her desperate awareness of her own worthlessness.’
    despairing, hopeless
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    1. 1.1 (of an act) tried in despair or when everything else has failed:
      ‘drugs used in a desperate attempt to save his life’
      • ‘We search the poems as if they are cryptic clues to some hidden meaning that might explain the desperate act.’
      • ‘This is all preamble to the final desperate act staged by John and the guards and carried out with great danger and difficulty.’
      • ‘Try comprehending the situation that would drive someone to this sort of desperate act.’
      • ‘The post operator admitted there would be closures in a desperate bid to deal with the financial crisis gripping the company, but said they would not be on the scale that had been claimed.’
      • ‘It was a desperate attempt to save his marriage, which was on the verge of breaking up.’
      • ‘It is the desperate act of a person who is in deep mental anguish.’
      • ‘They gave their lives in a desperate attempt to save others.’
      • ‘Finally, a desperate act of blind revenge led him to the scaffold.’
      • ‘When farming was invented 10,000 years ago, was it a desperate measure to deal with environmental crisis?’
      • ‘Because of this realism, though, the final desperate act of the movie is unlikely.’
      • ‘With such a tiny enrolment, online education was a desperate act to keep the course viable.’
      • ‘Ignored or abused by alcoholic parents, his desperate acts were the only way he could elicit any show of concern from them.’
      • ‘A career woman was today in prison after swindling more than £230,000 out of her employer in a desperate attempt to save her marriage.’
      • ‘The ship was breaking up and the last survivors were making rafts in desperate attempts to save their lives.’
      • ‘In fact, it is an account of a desperate, doomed attempt to transcend meaninglessness.’
      • ‘In a last, desperate act to save himself, James looked at his watch and pretended to be shocked.’
      • ‘It was the desperate act of a disgruntled former city employee who was refused his old job back.’
      • ‘Deportation detainees frequently resort to desperate acts to protest their imprisonment.’
      • ‘Charles took this desperate act in an attempt to reinforce his position in Germany.’
      • ‘But that doesn't disguise the reality that they are scraping the barrel in a desperate attempt to save a dying industry.’
      last-ditch, last-chance, last-resort, last-minute, last-gasp, eleventh-hour, all-out, do-or-die, final
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    2. 1.2 (of a situation) extremely serious or dangerous:
      ‘there is a desperate shortage of teachers’
      • ‘Well Lane was the most dangerous, and was an extremely fast road in desperate need of a pedestrian crossing, she said.’
      • ‘With more than 190,000 children already malnourished, and many more at risk, the circumstances are increasingly desperate.’
      • ‘The result is a country - and continent - in desperate need of alternative transportation.’
      • ‘Having said all this, what should be clear is that the pedagogy of teaching creative writing is in desperate need of critical attention.’
      • ‘There is a certain kind of quick courage that farmers - still the backbone of our wealth - have always shown in sudden desperate circumstance.’
      • ‘But the system within which those teachers are working is in desperate need of reform, in many ways, and at many levels.’
      • ‘‘No-one would leave their house and family if they were not in a desperate situation, in danger of their life,’ he says.’
      • ‘A £2.3m injection of government cash and worldwide recruitment trawls failed to resolve the desperate shortage of staff.’
      • ‘Developers have been quick to realise the desperate shortage of quality apartments in the city centre and are keen to make the most of the opportunity.’
      • ‘I didn't think it was necessarily a bad idea in the desperate circumstances, but they eventually decided against it.’
      • ‘Thousands of people could suffer because a desperate shortage of doctors is threatening the future of two city surgeries.’
      • ‘We are now in a desperate situation and require urgent action.’
      • ‘In its defence, the police service would argue a history of underfunding has led to a desperate shortage of officers across the board.’
      • ‘In London, the housing crisis is very acute, there is a desperate shortage of social housing and with house prices so unreachable for the majority, few people are able to buy.’
      • ‘The latter was a major concession given the country's dire economic straits and desperate shortage of electricity.’
      • ‘The 20-year-old student was seriously ill and the situation was desperate.’
      • ‘Private firms are cashing in on the desperate shortage of school teachers.’
      • ‘Rapid changes in hospital designs, coupled with a desperate shortage, meant that hospitals were a promising field of specialisation for architects.’
      • ‘Today, there are few hospitals, a desperate shortage of medical supplies, and a massive health crisis.’
      • ‘Accident victims are being rushed between hospitals or left on trolleys for hours because of a desperate shortage of beds and staff.’
      grave, serious, dangerous, risky, perilous, hazardous, precarious, critical, acute
      urgent, pressing, compelling, crying
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    3. 1.3 (of a person) violent or dangerous:
      ‘a desperate criminal’
      • ‘The townsfolk were reluctant to pursue them, for they were ill-equipped to chase well-armed and desperate outlaws into the wild, isolated regions where the criminals knew every trail and hiding place.’
      • ‘The only person that would commit such a deed would be a desperate criminal, accustomed to a life of outlawry.’
      • ‘Some type of containment is a must in order to capture the most dangerous and desperate criminal we face in law enforcement.’
      • ‘And it's blowing the lid off of everything that experts believe about the most desperate and dangerous people on earth.’
      • ‘In the Wild West, no single lawman could possibly stop a gang of desperate outlaws.’
      • ‘The Narcotics Branch arrested a desperate criminal.’
      • ‘Now suppose there is a desperate bandit lurking in the fields and one thousand men set out in pursuit of him.’
      violent, dangerous, lawless
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    4. 1.4Irish informal Very bad:
      ‘that beer's desperate—it's a wonder you've the nerve to offer it for sale’
      • ‘The weather was desperate - 10 degrees and savagely wet but we still loved every minute, and I think that speaks volumes for this place.’
      • ‘As usual in February the weather was desperate with a blizzard and white out conditions as we arrived at car park.’
      awful, terrible, appalling, abysmal, very bad, atrocious, unspeakable, frightful, miserable
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  • 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’
    • ‘I was so desperate for the object of my craving that I almost blurted out, ‘Are you going to buy that?’’
    • ‘I was desperate for some escape from the loneliness and from my own violent mood swings, but I was also determined to finish out the semester.’
    • ‘That they're so desperate for such basic items leaves little doubt about how much longer this aid effort is going to have to be maintained.’
    • ‘You know those days when you are just desperate for someone to see things they way you do, to feel the things you feel, to cry over a stupid story, you ache to feel a connection with someone, anyone.’
    • ‘Looking at him, with his horrific face and reedy, boyish voice, I understood that he was just desperate for some sort of acceptance and credibility.’
    • ‘They were desperate for somebody to do something.’
    • ‘‘We are desperate for people to acknowledge that the council is looking at a city-wide strategy,’ he adds.’
    • ‘We are still desperate for a midfield enforcer.’
    • ‘We are desperate for people to come and help us to keep the group running.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘They don't know this man, yet, they are so desperate for a human connection, to find that partner, they'll convince themselves this is the guy.’
    • ‘As you can probably tell from the nature of my posts, I didn't really start this off with any kind of plan and now I'm pretty desperate for topics to talk about.’
    • ‘‘They were so desperate for the warmth of a human being,’ she said.’
    • ‘It is not a matter of being too proud to accept somebody else's ideas; frankly, we are desperate for them, because there are some problems we simply do not know the answers to.’
    • ‘And we are desperate for more contacts in the UK and abroad.’
    • ‘The good thing is that some of the supermarkets sell really cheap jeans and trousers which is what we are desperate for.’
    • ‘She's desperate for ice cream, or anything else to eat, tormented by a constant hunger that never, ever goes away.’
    • ‘We are desperate for any offers of support at this stage because we are starting from scratch.’
    • ‘The bear meat had run out, and she was desperate for more.’
    • ‘But we are desperate for more men and women to join us.’
    in great need of, urgently requiring, craving, in want of, lacking, wanting
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Late Middle English (in the sense ‘in despair’): from Latin desperatus deprived of hope, past participle of desperare (see despair).