Etymology
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desperate (adj.)

c. 1400, desperat, of persons, "despairing, hopeless" (a sense now obsolete), from Latin desperatus "given up, despaired of," past participle of desperare "to despair, to lose all hope," from de "without" (see de-) + sperare "to hope," from spes "hope" (from PIE root *spes- "prosperity;" see speed (n.)).

Of persons, "without care for safety, extremely rash, driven to recklessness by despair," from late 15c.; weakened sense of "having a great desire for" is from 1950s. Of conditions, "extremely serious," from 1550s. Of actions, "done or resorted to without regard for consequences," 1570s. Related: Desperately; desperateness.

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Definitions of desperate
1
desperate (adj.)
desperately determined;
Synonyms: do-or-die
desperate (adj.)
arising from or marked by despair or loss of hope;
helpless and desperate--as if at the end of his tether
a desperate cry for help
her desperate screams
Synonyms: despairing
desperate (adj.)
(of persons) dangerously reckless or violent as from urgency or despair;
a desperate criminal
taken hostage of desperate men
desperate (adj.)
showing extreme courage; especially of actions courageously undertaken in desperation as a last resort; "the desperate gallantry of our naval task forces marked the turning point in the Pacific war"- G.C.Marshall;
made a last desperate attempt to reach the climber
Synonyms: heroic
desperate (adj.)
showing extreme urgency or intensity especially because of great need or desire;
a desperate need for recognition
felt a desperate urge to confess
desperate (adj.)
fraught with extreme danger; nearly hopeless; "on all fronts the Allies were in a desperate situation due to lack of materiel"- G.C.Marshall;
a desperate illness
Synonyms: dire
2
desperate (n.)
a person who is frightened and in need of help;
they prey on the hopes of the desperate
From wordnet.princeton.edu