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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.
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]