Meaning of “desperate” in the English Dictionary

"desperate" in British English

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desperateadjective

uk /ˈdes.pər.ət/ us /ˈdes.pɚ.ət/

desperate adjective (SERIOUS)

C2 very serious or bad:

desperate poverty
a desperate shortage of food/supplies
The situation is desperate - we have no food, very little water and no medical supplies.

very great or extreme:

The earthquake survivors are in desperate need of help.
He has a desperate desire to succeed.
informal I'm in a desperate hurry.

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desperate adjective (WANTING)

B2 [ usually after verb ] needing or wanting something very much:

They are desperate for help.
UK humorous I'm desperate for a drink!
[ + to infinitive ] UK humorous He was desperate to tell someone his good news.

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desperate adjective (RISKY)

B2 feeling that you have no hope and are ready to do anything to change the bad situation you are in:

The doctors made one last desperate attempt/effort to save the boy's life.
Desperate measures are needed to deal with the growing drug problem.
They made a desperate plea for help.

willing to be violent, and therefore dangerous:

This man is desperate and should not be approached since he may have a gun.

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(Definition of “desperate” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"desperate" in American English

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desperateadjective

us /ˈdes·pər·ət/

desperate adjective (RISKY)

showing a willingness to take any risk in order to change a bad or dangerous situation:

The ads are a desperate attempt to win last-minute votes.

A desperate person is willing to take any measures and may be dangerous:

desperate criminals

desperate adjective (SERIOUS)

very serious or dangerous:

There’s a desperate shortage of medical supplies in the area.
The earthquake survivors are in desperate need of help.

desperate adjective (IN NEED)

having a very great need:

She was desperate for news of her family.
I’m desperate for some coffee.

(Definition of “desperate” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)