The Meaning of Despite: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of despite? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word despite, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word despite mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge English Dictionary, the word despite (pronounced ​dɪˈspaɪt) is a preposition that means without taking notice of or being influenced by, as well as not being prevented by. This is commonly used in the phrases “in spite of the fact,” “despite oneself” or “despite yourself,” in which a person does something even though they don’t want to or shouldn’t do a certain thing. One might go to the beach in June despite bad weather or in spite of the rain. One might have joviality or a happy disposition despite infirmity, a horrible headache, or a drug habit. One might proceed with something despite reservation or suspicion, or one might feel suspicion despite hype or critical acclaim. One might get a short dark hair cut right before New Year’s Eve despite outrage and warnings from a parent or outsiders. Do not get this word confused with despise, a feeling of intense dislike, contemptuous defiance, act of malice, contemptuous disregard, hatred, or a lack of respect that one might feel for a pathetic figure who has no soul. This is an insult, and such feelings are far different from the word despite.

There are many other languages that also contain words meaning despite. You may notice that some of these words look similar to one another or to the English translation. These are called cognates. Cognates occur when two words look and sound similar and mean the same thing across different languages. These are often formed when two words have the same root, or the same language of origin like Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word despite is provided by Word Sense.

  • Vietnamese: mặc dù‎, không kể‎, bất chấp‎
  • Czech: přes‎, vzdor‎, navzdory‎
  • Portuguese: a despeito de‎, apesar de‎, não obstante‎
  • German: trotz‎
  • Ukrainian: незважаючи на‎, всупереч‎
  • Russian: несмотря‎, вопреки́‎
  • Scottish Gaelic: a dh’aindeoin‎
  • Spanish: a pesar de‎, pese a‎, malgrado‎
  • Latin: quamquam‎
  • Egyptian Arabic: ومع كدا‎ (wemaʿ keda)
  • Georgian: მიუხედავად‎
  • Korean: 에도 불구하고‎
  • Hungarian: ellenére‎, annak ellenére, hogy‎, dacára‎, dacára, hogy‎
  • Interlingua: malgrado‎
  • Albanian: megjithëse‎
  • French: en dépit de‎, malgré‎
  • Bulgarian: въпреки‎
  • Esperanto: malgraŭ‎
  • Dutch: ondanks‎
  • Icelandic: þrátt fyrir‎
  • Hindi: के बावजूद‎ (kē bāvajūda)
  • Arabic: رغم‎, رغم‎
  • Bashkir: ҡарамаҫтан‎
  • Catalan: malgrat‎, tot i que‎, encara que‎, tot i‎
  • Swedish: trots‎ (att)
  • Finnish: huolimatta‎ (+ elative)
  • Japanese: (suffix) にもかかわらず‎ (〜にも関わらず)
  • Mandarin: 儘管‎, 尽管‎ (jǐnguǎn), 不顧‎, 不顾‎ (bú gù), 不管‎ (bùguǎn), 任憑‎, 任凭‎ (rènpíng), 即使‎ (jíshǐ)
  • Turkish: rağmen‎, karşın‎
  • Roman: usprkos‎
  • Malay: walaupun‎
  • Danish: på trods af‎
  • Italian: nonostante‎, sebbene‎, malgrado‎
  • Irish: in ainneoin‎
  • Persian: علیرغم‎ (alâraqm)
  • Thai: แม้จะมี‎ (mae cha mi)
  • Romanian: în ciuda, cu tot‎
  • Greek: παρά‎
  • Hebrew: למרות‎ (lamrot)
  • Norwegian: til tross for‎
  • Polish: mimo‎, pomimo‎, wbrew‎
  • Basque: gora-behera ere‎
  • Cyrillic: уcпркос‎
  • Armenian: չնայած‎

How can the word despite be used in a sentence?

The word despite can be used in a plethora of different contexts and sentences. Below are a few different sentence examples for the word despite.

Emery cheated on the test despite herself; she would rather lie than fail. 

Despite getting an A on the exam and her teacher not suspecting anything, Emery still felt guilty.

Emery’s teacher allowed her to retake the exam despite her confession; he knew she was a good student and a good person who made an error in judgment, and he did not hold a grudge.

Despite receiving a lower grade on her retake, Emery was happy. She finally felt free of her guilt and anxiety surrounding the test. 

Despite being a great leader, proper English, and years of study, he did not get into Princeton University. Despite his rejection, he went out on an optimistic note.

Despite the little sign of rain, he decided to leave his umbrella at home and go out at night despite escalating violence downtown per media publicity.

Despite the fracture in his leg, he didn’t create a slowdown in the hallway.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word despite?

There are many words that mean the same thing as the word despite. These equivalent words are known as synonyms, and can be used interchangeably with the word despite. Synonyms are a quick and simple way to expand your English language vocabulary, and can help you avoid repeating the same word over and over again. This list of synonyms for the word despite is provided by Thesaurus

  • facing
  • granting all this
  • contra
  • even if
  • contrary to
  • despite
  • across
  • con
  • supposing
  • although
  • opposed to
  • in opposition to
  • granting
  • despite the fact
  • albeit
  • versus
  • while
  • in contempt of
  • still
  • though
  • counter to
  • much as
  • in the face of
  • opposing
  • even with
  • when
  • even supposing
  • against
  • in contrast to
  • in defiance of
  • in spite of
  • notwithstanding
  • even though
  • whereas
  • regardless of
  • undeterred by
  • adjacent
  • admitting
  • vs

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word despite. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are another great way to improve your vocabulary. This list of opposite words for the word despite is also provided by Thesaurus

  • over
  • in the interest of
  • in behalf of
  • in view of
  • being
  • for the reason that
  • by reason of
  • on account of
  • thanks to
  • through
  • as things go
  • seeing
  • as a result of
  • for the sake of
  • owing to
  • as long as
  • as
  • due to
  • for
  • whereas
  • in as much as
  • since
  • by virtue of
  • now that
  • because
  • considering
  • on the grounds that
  • by cause of
  • in that

What is the origin of the word despite?

According to Etymonline, the word despite has been used since the year 1300, when it was spelled like the Middle English despit and used as a noun to mean some contemptuous challenge or act of defiance. The word despite was used in the mid-14th century to mean scorn or contempt. This word comes from the Old French despit. This word was used in the 12th century; in Modern French, the word is spelled dépit. This comes from the Latin depectus meaning some looking down on or scorn. This is from the past participle of despicere, a Latin verb meaning to look down on. This comes from the root de meaning down and the root spicere or specere meaning to look at. This word has been used in a prepositional sense to mean notwithstanding since the early 15th century. This is short for in despite of meaning in defiance of. This is a loan-translation from the Anglo French phrase en despit de and almost became despight during a 16th century spelling reform. Related words include the noun spite. 

Overall, the English word despite is a preposition that means in spite of or without taking notice of something. This word comes from the French and is commonly used in phrases such as despite yourself. This is often used in casual English grammar.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/despite
  2. https://www.wordsense.eu/despite/
  3. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/despite
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/despite
  5. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/because
  6. https://www.etymonline.com/word/despite#etymonline_v_5667