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[des-puh-rah-doh, -rey-] /ˌdɛs pəˈrɑ doʊ, -ˈreɪ-/
noun, plural desperadoes, desperados.
a bold, reckless criminal or outlaw, especially in the early days of the American West.
Origin of desperado
1600-10; probably pseudo-Spanish alteration of desperate (as noun, now obsolete), in same sense Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for desperado
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The desperado sat still several minutes, drank again from a bowl which Mex had mixed.

    A Dream of Empire William Henry Venable
  • A woman was very often the cause of a desperado's apprehension.

    The Story of the Outlaw Emerson Hough
  • He was a desperado, a dramatic villain, the sort of man respectable people rarely meet, except on the stage or in police courts.

    Missy Miriam Coles Harris
  • What had happened showed the folly of putting any trust in a desperado.

    Owen Clancy's Happy Trail Burt L. Standish
  • It was as excellent a lesson for Ned as had been the previous lesson for the desperado.

  • What hardened ferocity in the countenance of the desperado in yellow breeches!

    Roundabout Papers William Makepeace Thackeray
  • I was a young buck them days, an' purty much of a desperado, I'm thinkin'.

  • Gerty was a desperado who was to be feared as well as hated.

    Daniel Boone John S. C. Abbott
British Dictionary definitions for desperado


noun (pl) -does, -dos
a reckless or desperate person, esp one ready to commit any violent illegal act
Word Origin
C17: probably pseudo-Spanish variant of obsolete desperate (n) a reckless character
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 desperado

c.1600, "a person in despair," mock-Spanish version of desperate (n.) "reckless criminal" (1560s), from Latin desperatus (see desperation). There was an adjective desperado in Old Spanish, meaning "out of hope, desperate," but apparently it never was used as a noun and it probably has nothing to do with the English word. Meaning "a desperate or reckless man" is recorded from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for desperado



A person who gambles or borrows more than he can pay, and is certain to default, or who gambles with money he cannot afford to lose •Such money is called desperate or scared

[1950s+ Gambling; fr earlier desperado, ''outlaw, fugitive,'' literally ''desperate man,'' fr Spanish]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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