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From Spanish desesperado, past participle of desesperar ‎(to despair), from Latin disperare ‎(to despair, to lose hope), from prefix dis- + sperare ‎(to hope).



desperado ‎(plural desperadoes or desperados)

  1. A bold outlaw, especially one from southern portions of the Wild West.
    • 1850, Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets, The present time
      The kind of persons who excite or give signal to such revolutions — students, young men of letters […], or fierce and justly bankrupt desperadoes, acting everywhere on the discontent of the millions and blowing it into flame, — might give rise to reflections as to the character of our epoch.
    • 1918, Willa Cather, My Antonia, Mirado Modern Classics, paperback edition, page 6
      Surely this was the face of a desperado.
  2. (chess) A piece that seems determined to give itself up, typically to bring about stalemate or perpetual check.