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1. The condition of being desperate.
2. Recklessness arising from despair.


1. desperate recklessness
2. the act of despairing or the state of being desperate


(ˌdɛs pəˈreɪ ʃən)

1. the state of being desperate or of having the recklessness of despair.
2. the act or fact of despairing; despair.
[1325–75; Middle English < Latin]
syn: See despair.



any port in a storm See EXPEDIENCE.

at the end of one’s rope or tether At the end of one’s endurance or resources, out of options; exasperated, frustrated. The rope or tether is generally conceded to be that formerly attached to a grazing animal, restricting his movement and area of pasturage.

He was at the end of his rope when he had consumed all the provender within reach.

climb walls To be stir-crazy from confinement; to feel trapped or hemmed-in; to suffer from a lack of options. One who is “climbing the walls” suffers from a claustrophobic feeling of confinement—physical or mental—from which there is no apparent relief. The image is of a person trapped in a room with no doors or windows—the only way for releasing his pent-up energies being to climb the walls.

forlorn hope A desperate hope or undertaking; an expedition in which the survival of the participants is doubtful. This phrase is homonymously derived from the Dutch verloren hoop ‘lost troop,’ and formerly referred to the front line of soldiers in a military confrontation:

Called the forlorn hope, because they … fall on first, and make a passage for the rest. (Gaya’s Art of Wan, 1678)

grasp at straws To seek substance in the flimsy or meaning in the insignificant; to find ground for hope where none exists. In common use since the 18th century, the expression derives from the even older self-explanatory proverb: “A drowning man will catch at a straw.”

last-ditch Made in a final, desperate, all-out attempt to avoid impending calamity; fought or argued to the bitter end, using every available resource. This expression has the military overtones of continuing one’s efforts even though disaster seems imminent and all but the last line of defense (e.g., a ditch or foxhole) has been overcome. Its initial use is credited to William, Prince of Orange, who, in 1672, was asked if he expected to see his country (England) defeated by the French in the war that was raging at the time. He replied, “Nay, there is one certain means by which I can be sure never to see my country’s ruin. I will die in the last ditch.” He then rejected all offers of peace, intensified his efforts, and was victorious in 1678, not dying in the last ditch, but becoming King William III. A variation, derived from William’s quote, is die in the last ditch. In contemporary usage, last ditch is not limited to military affairs, but is used to describe any all-out, no-holds-barred effort.

Charlton himself surely was offside before McNab made his last ditch effort to recover the situation. (Times, August 27, 1973)

push the panic button To overreact to a situation, to react in a wildly impulsive, confused, or excessive manner, often because of pressures of work. Literally, a panic button is a control button or switch which can trigger the pilot’s ejection from an aircraft in an emergency; thus, figuratively, a last resort to be used only when all else has failed.

tear one’s hair out To be visibly distressed or agitated; to show signs of extreme anger or anguish. Originally referring to a gesture of mourning or intense grief, this expression, dating from the 16th century, is no longer used literally. It continues to be said, however, of one who is extremely frustrated, or going through an intensely painful emotional experience.

Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair And curst himself in his despair. (Robert Southey, Inchcape Rock, 1802)

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.desperation - a state in which all hope is lost or absentdesperation - a state in which all hope is lost or absent; "in the depths of despair"; "they were rescued from despair at the last minute"; "courage born of desperation"
condition, status - a state at a particular time; "a condition (or state) of disrepair"; "the current status of the arms negotiations"
2.desperation - desperate recklessness; "it was a policy of desperation"
foolhardiness, recklessness, rashness - the trait of giving little thought to danger


2. recklessness, madness, defiance, frenzy, impetuosity, rashness, foolhardiness, heedlessness It was an act of sheer desperation.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" [Henry David Thoreau Walden]
"Beggars can't be choosers"
"A drowning man will clutch at a straw"


يَأْس، إسْتِماتَه
örvænting, úrræîaleysi


[ˌdespəˈreɪʃən] Ndesesperación f
she drove him to desperationle llevó al borde de la desesperaciónle hizo caer en la desesperación
in (sheer) desperation; out of (sheer) desperationa la desesperada, de pura desesperación


[ˌdɛspəˈreɪʃən] ndésespoir m
a feeling of desperation → un sentiment de désespoir
in desperation → en désespoir de cause
out of sheer desperation → par pur désespoir


nVerzweiflung f; an act of desperationeine Verzweiflungstat; in (sheer) desperationaus (reiner) Verzweiflung; to drive somebody to desperationjdn zur Verzweiflung bringen or treiben


[ˌdɛspəˈreɪʃn] ndisperazione f
an act of desperation → un gesto disperato
in (sheer) desperation → per (pura) disperazione


(ˈdespərət) adjective
1. (sometimes used loosely) despairingly reckless or violent. She was desperate to get into university; a desperate criminal.
2. very bad or almost hopeless. We are in a desperate situation.
3. urgent and despairing. He made a desperate appeal for help.
ˈdesperately adverb
ˌdespeˈration noun
In desperation we asked the police for help.


n desesperación f
References in classic literature ?
Her story was as full of desperation and despair as her limited acquaintance with those uncomfortable emotions enabled her to make it, and having located it in Lisbon, she wound up with an earthquake, as a striking and appropriate denouement.
In his desperation George boasted, "I'm going to be a big man, the biggest that ever lived here in Winesburg," he de- clared.
The leaves were unusually agitated; the dangerous rifle fell from its commanding elevation, and after a few moments of vain struggling, the form of the savage was seen swinging in the wind, while he still grasped a ragged and naked branch of the tree with hands clenched in desperation.
I should not have been prompted, by stress of need, by desperation of mind--I scarce know what to call it--to invoke such further aid to intelligence as might spring from pushing my colleague fairly to the wall.
It was at this point, gentlemen, that enraged by the defection of seven of his former associates, and stung by the mocking voice that had last hailed him, and maddened by his long entombment in a place as black as the bowels of despair; it was then that Steelkilt proposed to the two Canallers, thus far apparently of one mind with him, to burst out of their hole at the next summoning of the garrison; and armed with their keen mincing knives (long, crescentic, heavy implements with a handle at each end) run a muck from the bowsprit to the taffrail; and if by any devilishness of desperation possible, seize the ship.
Marija was one of those hungry souls who cling with desperation to the skirts of the retreating muse.
You old hands got so wise, that a child cannot cough, or sneeze, but you see desperation and ruin at hand.
For a while it did seem that these people would pass the king before I could get to him; but desperation gives you wings, you know, and I canted my body forward, inflated my breast, and held my breath and flew.
Every boy he encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn and was received with a Scriptural quotation, his heart broke and he crept home and to bed realizing that he alone of all the town was lost, forever and forever.
At quarter past five everything was ready, and the neighbors, those at least who were within sight of the brick house (a prominent object in the landscape when there were no leaves on the trees), were curious almost to desperation.
Marianne began now to perceive that the desperation which had seized her at sixteen and a half, of ever seeing a man who could satisfy her ideas of perfection, had been rash and unjustifiable.
The fact is, I was a trifle beside myself; or rather OUT of myself, as the French would say: I was conscious that a moment's mutiny had already rendered me liable to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I felt resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths.