9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[dih-spair] /dɪˈspɛər/
loss of hope; hopelessness.
someone or something that causes hopelessness:
He is the despair of his mother.
verb (used without object)
to lose, give up, or be without hope (often followed by of):
to despair of humanity.
verb (used with object)
Obsolete. to give up hope of.
Origin of despair
1275-1325; Middle English despeir (noun), despeiren (v.) < Anglo-French despeir, Old French despoir (noun), despeir-, tonic stem of desperer (v.) < Latin dēspērāre to be without hope, equivalent to dē- de- + spērāre to hope, derivative of spēs hope
Related forms
despairer, noun
self-despair, noun
undespaired, adjective
1. gloom, disheartenment. Despair, desperation, despondency, discouragement, hopelessness refer to a state of mind caused by circumstances that seem too much to cope with. Despair suggests total loss of hope, which may be passive or may drive one to furious efforts, even if at random: in the depths of despair; courage born of despair. Desperation is usually an active state, the abandonment of hope impelling to a furious struggle against adverse circumstances, with utter disregard of consequences: an act of desperation when everything else had failed. Despondency is a state of deep gloom and disheartenment: a spell of despondency. Discouragement is a loss of courage, hope, and ambition because of obstacles, frustrations, etc.: His optimism yielded to discouragement. Hopelessness is a loss of hope so complete as to result in a more or less permanent state of passive despair: a state of hopelessness and apathy.
1. hope. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for despair
  • There was also the doom-and-gloom despair, the despondency that prevailed in the place.
  • The problem is, each experiences it in isolation, which only exacerbates the sense of hopelessness and despair.
  • So don't despair, the right partner will come along eventually; it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
  • One can only despair, and try to prepare for a diminished future.
  • But today in our literature, and especially in our theater, we're in danger of running despair into the ground.
  • Associative leaps prevail, and soon the narrator winds up in a fit of existential despair.
  • Hope is oxygen to someone who is suffocating on despair.
  • But if you never attended a liberal-arts college, don't despair.
  • The despair is what I find truly painful to read.
  • Today as we leave Yale a sense of frustration and despair overwhelms us.
British Dictionary definitions for despair


(intransitive) often foll by of. to lose or give up hope: I despair of his coming
(transitive) (obsolete) to give up hope of; lose hope in
total loss of hope
a person or thing that causes hopelessness or for which there is no hope
Word Origin
C14: from Old French despoir hopelessness, from desperer to despair, from Latin dēspērāre, from de- + spērāre to hope
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
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Word Origin and History for despair

early 14c., from stem of Old French desperer "be dismayed, lose hope, despair," from Latin desperare "to despair, to lose all hope," from de- "without" + sperare "to hope," from spes "hope" (see speed). Related: Despaired; despairing; despairingly.


c.1300, from Anglo-French despeir, Old French despoir, from desperer (see despair (v.)). Replaced native wanhope.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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