Desperate - disparate

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These words are near homophones in normal casual speech, though people speaking carefully may distinguish them. Make sure you don't use the wrong one.

  • Desperate is by far the commoner of the two. It means 'without hope', although in casual speech it and the related adverb 'desperately' are often used loosely, to mean something like 'pretty bad' or 'not successful': "I must work; my assignment is desperately late" or "The footballer made a desperate attempt to tackle his opponent". (Desperate comes from the verb 'to despair'.)
  • Disparate means 'very different, distinct in kind, unequal'. It is sometimes used, loosely, with a meaning very close to that of 'separate'. Do not use it in this way.