Also found in: Thesaurus.


 (dĕs′ə-lĭt, dĕz′-)
a. Devoid of inhabitants; deserted: "streets which were usually so thronged now grown desolate" (Daniel Defoe).
b. Barren; lifeless: the rocky, desolate surface of the moon.
2. Feeling, showing, causing, or expressing sadness or loneliness. See Synonyms at sad.
tr.v. (-lāt′) des·o·lat·ed, des·o·lat·ing, des·o·lates
1. To rid or deprive of inhabitants.
2. To lay waste; devastate: "Here we have no wars to desolate our fields" (Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur).
3. To forsake; abandon.
4. To make lonely, forlorn, or wretched.

[Middle English desolat, from Latin dēsōlātus, past participle of dēsōlāre, to abandon : dē-, de- + sōlus, alone; see s(w)e- in Indo-European roots.]

des′o·late·ly adv.
des′o·late·ness n.
des′o·lat′er, des′o·la′tor n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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References in classic literature ?
Second: To the native Indian of Peru, the continual sight of the snow-howdahed Andes conveys naught of dread, except, perhaps, in the mere fancying of the eternal frosted desolateness reigning at such vast altitudes, and the natural conceit of what a fearfulness it would be to lose oneself in such inhuman solitudes.
But the voyeurism was also symbolic of the central character's feeling of isolation and desolateness in his troubled life.
In the context of his writing poems as a fight for survival, and his writing letters revealing the richness of his thought, Crane swang between the past and the present, finally deciding against the desolateness of T.
"The view is so dramatic and it's an interesting little top of a mountain." Though smaller than Everest, the near-perfect pyramid has lured the world's best climbers for decades with its combination of extremes of weather, great altitude and desolateness.
The contributors' entries show the dark beauty of the stormy sky to the desolateness of Nepal's remote countryside--all with a sharp eye for color and composition.
Rowling's portrait of the desolateness of English rural life, despite its vivid prose and servings of humour, may make you pine for the magical world of the boy wizard
That the word "silent" is used to represent the absence and desolateness of the streets of the little town is highly significant here.