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From Middle English, from Latin desolatus, past participle of desolare (to leave alone, make lonely, lay waste, desolate), from solus (alone).


  • (adjective) IPA(key): /ˈdɛsələt/
  • (verb) IPA(key): /ˈdɛsəleɪt/


desolate (comparative more desolate, superlative most desolate)

  1. Deserted and devoid of inhabitants.
    a desolate isle; a desolate wilderness; a desolate house
    • Bible, Jer. ix. 11
      I will make Jerusalem [] a den of dragons, and I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.
    • Tennyson
      And the silvery marish flowers that throng / The desolate creeks and pools among.
  2. Barren and lifeless.
  3. Made unfit for habitation or use; laid waste; neglected; destroyed.
    desolate altars
  4. Dismal or dreary.
  5. Sad, forlorn and hopeless.
    He was left desolate by the early death of his wife.
    • Keble
      voice of the poor and desolate



desolate (third-person singular simple present desolates, present participle desolating, simple past and past participle desolated)

  1. To deprive of inhabitants.
    • 1625, Francis Bacon, “Of Vicissitude of Things” in Essays, London: H. Herringman et al., 1691, p. 204,[1]
      If you consider well of the People of the West-Indies, it is very probable, that they are a newer or younger People, than the People of the old World. And it is much more likely, that the destruction that hath heretofore been there, was not by Earthquakes, [] but rather, it was Desolated by a particular Deluge: For Earthquakes are seldom in those Parts.
    • 1717, John Dryden (translator), Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Dublin: G. Risk et al., 1727, Volume I, Book I, p. 16,[2]
      O Righteous Themis, if the Pow’rs above
      By Pray’rs are bent to pity, and to love;
      If humane Miseries can move their Mind;
      If yet they can forgive, and yet be kind;
      Tell how we may restore, by second birth,
      Mankind, and people desolated Earth.
    • 1891, Charles Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain, Cambridge University Press, Chapter 1, p. 23,[3]
      York was so desolated just before the survey that it is not easy to estimate its ordinary population []
  2. To devastate or lay waste somewhere.
    • 1801, Robert Southey, Thalaba the Destroyer, London: Longman, Hurst, Rees & Orme, 2nd edition, 1809, Volume I, Book 3, p. 118,[4]
      Then Moath pointed where a cloud
      Of Locusts, from the desolated fields
      Of Syria, wing’d their way.
    • 1905, H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia, Chapter 2, § 3,[5]
      But in Utopia there will be wide stretches of cheerless or unhealthy or toilsome or dangerous land with never a household; there will be regions of mining and smelting, black with the smoke of furnaces and gashed and desolated by mines, with a sort of weird inhospitable grandeur of industrial desolation, and the men will come thither and work for a spell and return to civilisation again, washing and changing their attire in the swift gliding train.
  3. To abandon or forsake something. (Can we verify(+) this sense?)
  4. To make someone sad, forlorn and hopeless.
    • 1914, Arnold Bennett, The Author’s Craft, London: Hodder & Stoughton, Part II, p. 44,[6]
      It is not altogether uncommon to hear a reader whose heart has been desolated by the poignancy of a narrative complain that the writer is unemotional.
    • 1948, Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country, New York: Scribner, Chapter 36, p. 271,[7]
      Kumalo stood shocked at the frightening and desolating words.


Related terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]





  1. inflected form of desolat



desolate f pl

  1. feminine plural of desolato




  1. vocative masculine singular of dēsōlātus