What's the verb of "desperate", I think it's not "despair", because in this case when you are desperate, you are willing to do anything to get out of the bad situation. And with despair----it's when you have no hope.

  • If there's not a verb, what constructions can work like it?

Willing to do anything.

  • Desperation-----NOUN.
  • Desperate----ADJECTIVE.
  • ? ¿-------VERB
  • EDIT
  • Cambridge dictionary says: Desperation(NOUN) the feeling that you have when you are in such a bad situation that you are willing to take risks in order to change it:
  • Desperate(Adjective): feeling that you have no hope and are ready to do anything to change the bad situation you are in:

No hope

  • despair----NOUN.

  • Despair-----VERB

  • Despairing---ADJECTIVE.

  • EDIT

  • Cambridge dictionary says:

Despair(noun): the feeling that there is no hope and that you can do nothing to improve a difficult or worrying situation:

Despair(Verb): to feel despair(noun) about something or someone:

Despairing(adjective): showing or feeling that there is no hope and that you can do nothing to improve a difficult or worrying situation:

Thereby, as we can see, the nouns and adjectives are related because they imply the state of having no hope, but they also imply different reactions.

  • The only verb associated with desperate is despair. However, knowing how to use it is tricky.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 18:53
  • 18
    The problem with your question is that adjectives don't have verbs. There is no productive process for converting an adjective into a verb. This is unlike, for example, how verbs have participles. So formally the question has no answer.
    – James K
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 19:40
  • @JamesK, I think so.
    – Thunder05
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 20:11
  • I think "desperate" is a state of mind; whether you like that or not does not influence the verb that leads to that state IMHO.
    – U. Windl
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:29
  • Providing an example of a sentence in which you would use such a word would improve this question. Being desperate to find shelter in a storm is very different from being desperate to find a romantic relationship, and both are different from being desperate for a cup of coffee. The specific context will change the answer.
    – barbecue
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 14:47

8 Answers 8

  • He despairs of ever finding a gift his son will really like.
  • He is desperate to find a gift his son will really like.

He may really want to find a gift but if he despairs of finding one, he believes he will not.

The two sentences mean different things.

[despair=to feel despair about something]

despair is a noun and a verb. despairing is a noun (gerund) or an adjective.

desperation and desperate are the noun and adjective that have the same semantic meaning.

He despairs of [whatever] =to believe he will never be able to [whatever]

He is desperate to do [something].

  • to be desperate : is trying everything by all means to do it.

He despairs of finding etc.

  • to despair [of plus verb] : believes he will never find

It's not entirely clear what you mean by "verb of desperate", but if you mean "what is a single verb that means the same as to be desperate?", then there isn't one. To be desperate is as close as you'll get.

  • 2
    In English and a number of other languages, some adjectives are formed by taking a past participle of a verb (e.g. tired is the past participle of tire). In this context, the adjective is the result of the verb, so it's possible that OP is asking for a verb which means "to become desperate."
    – Kevin
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 4:46
  • It is clear the OP just does not know, which is why we have to enlighten him. I don't understand why this non-answer gets so many upvotes.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 14:45
  • @Lambie Upvotes because the last sentence is the best answer so far? Commented May 17, 2022 at 13:40

I'm pretty sure it is 'despair'. The Oxford definition of 'desperate' says:

Origin: late Middle English (in the sense ‘in despair’): from Latin desperatus ‘deprived of hope’, past participle of desperare (see despair).

  • 3
    I agree: desperate – despairing – in a state of despair. Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 17:04
  • 1
    I think it'd be better to see my edit.
    – Thunder05
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 18:39
  • 10
    I disagree: desperate isn't despairing. Desperate wants something to happen. Despair acknowledges it never will.
    – mcalex
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 9:15
  • 5
    OK, the words may have evolved different shades of meaning, but there's no denying that both are derived from to despair, from the Latin de-sperare, to be without hope. Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 11:05
  • 8
    Whilst etymologically "to despair" is the verb from which "desperate" is derived. It looks like OP is looking for a verb equivalent to "to be desperate", which "to despair" decidedly is not
    – Tristan
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:16

I think the way desperation manifests itself in action depends upon the nature of the desperation. For example, you might vacillate or prevaricate if you're desperate to make a decision, but you might lust or crave if you're desperate to possess someone or something.

  • This is actually helpful, because it points out that the context of the desperation can change the word you use.
    – barbecue
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 14:49

Desperate describes a condition or state of being so its verb definition would have to be "existing in a condition of desperation", which doesn't yet exist. Therefore, you'd have to make one up—which you could, because that's how words are made. The dictionary is not a rule book, it's a record of common usage.

Taxonomy doesn't have a verb form either; there is no such thing as "taxonomizing" something. But I use the word taxonomize because it makes sense to me and that's how language works. If enough other people use it because it also makes sense to them, eventually it will find its place in the dictionary. And there's nothing to say that this couldn't happen here, with desperate, which itself could be its own verb form:

The drifter desperated through life, never catching the break he was in search of.

This doesn't really sound that good to me but if it truly makes sense to you and you think it fills a void in the English language that needs to be filled, use it.

And, by the way, if a professor marks you down for this and says the word doesn't exist, tell him you're playing 3d chess and you just put him in check. 😂

  • I think that if I had to use "desperate" working as a verb, I would use quotes, I think it's better, right? As it's not an official English word.
    – Thunder05
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 1:55
  • 1
    @Thunder05 It's not an official English word but a true artist, which is what a true writer is, does not need confirmation for their art, especially from "official" sources. However, if what you are writing is more scientific and less artistic, I think quotations would be appropriate. I'd consider wrapping taxonomize in quotation marks if it was going into a science journal but I would certainly never consider it if it was going into a novel.
    – user124641
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 2:03

It does not make sense to ask for a verb that is an equivalent of an adjective. There are no verbs that is the equivalent of any adjective, really. It's like asking for the verb of 'long' or 'beautiful'. Adjectives describe a state. verbs are actions. For most adjectives there are words that can describe getting closer to a state, like 'grow, elongate, expand' for 'long'. For beautiful it is a lot more complex to find verbs. Improve? Tidy? Actually despair is closer to desperate than you would find for most adjectives.

You are asking for a verb that describes a state (of mind), and frankly, it doesn't make any sense.

  • 4
    "lengthen" and "beautify"
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:25
  • 2
    The question makes a lot more sense than you give it credit for. In some languages (I believe at least some Semitic languages, for example) verbs and adjectives are essentially the same class, in the sense that every adjective X is grammatically a participle of a corresponding verb — either an active verb or a "verb of state" meaning (depending on conjugation) "to be/become/make X". […] Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:27
  • 1
    […] In English, like in other Indo-European languages, this correspondence is only partial: all English verbs can be made into participles, but not all adjectives are derived from verbs in this manner. However, a lot of English adjectives are derived from verbs (either directly as English participles, or via another language like Latin that both the verb and the adjective were borrowed from), and indeed "desperate" is one such example, although it has later acquired additional connotations that don't perfectly match its corresponding verb "to despair". Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 15:27
  • 1
    @Barmar Well then. It seems I was way too hasty. Lessen learned I guess. Thanks for the humiliation. (in sincerity, I learned something new)
    – jumps4fun
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 16:34
  • the verb of 'long'? But 'to long' is already a verb ;) Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 15:03

Short answer: despair is what it is linked to, but you could use these:

  • They became desperate
  • They grew desperate
  • They lost hope

You place desperate (adjective) in the 'willing to do anything' section instead of 'no hope' even though your definition says:

Desperate(Adjective): feeling that you have no hope and are ready to do anything to change the bad situation you are in:

I don't think there is the firm dividing line you assume where 'despair' means absolutely no hope and a situation cannot possibly change.

The -ate suffix (desper-ate) means

-ate is used to form adjectives with the meaning "showing; full of'': passion + -ate → passionate (= showing passion); consider + -ate → considerate (= showing the action of considering); literate.

The root is 'desperation':

a state of despair, typically one which results in rash or extreme behavior.

late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin desperatio(n- ), from the verb desperare (see despair).

In fact the first definition I find for desperate:

feeling, showing, or involving a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with.

Or the first definition in Merriam-Webster:

a) having lost hope
b) giving no ground for hope

There are other definitions that give more of the 'hope' or 'struggling to improve' vibe as well that have happened over time, but the words share a common root and there isn't a separate verb form that I know of to indicate that

  • Sure it isn't actually rooted in a negation of "sperate", which is in at least some dictionaries? Also, "spera" would be valid latin, "-spair" sounds like some later-on latin-bungling? Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 0:21

The meaning of words shift over time, and different parts of speech with the same root can drift separately. There are plenty of examples of words with the same root with very different meanings. For instance, "terrific" has the same root as "terrify". "Basement" has the same root as "abase". The verb "confect" refers to mixing anything together, but "confection" is generally understood to mean candy. If you look up "pink" in the dictionary, you'll find

pink verb
pinked; pinking; pinks
Definition of pink (Entry 5 of 5)
transitive verb
1a: to perforate in an ornamental pattern
b: to cut a saw-toothed edge on
b: to wound by irony, criticism, or ridicule


Additionally, the word "despair" can be a noun. The fact that there are two nouns derived from the verb "despair" means that it's easier for one to retain the meaning of the verb "despair" while the other one drifts.

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