From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

DESOLATION. —The history of Israel had given to this word in the time of Christ a peculiar and sinister significance. To nearly all the prophets the idea of a wasted and depopulated land, such as is given in the graphic description of  Isaiah 1:7-9, is familiar. When Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who most frequently use the words, mention חָרִבָה or שַׁמָה, they always have one thing in their mind—the vision of a once peaceful and flourishing place which by fire and sword has been laid waste, and is left uninhabited. Few countries have suffered so much as Palestine from the havoc wrought by civil war and foreign invasion. To understand the full force of the term ‘desolation,’ we have to add to the features of war, as known to us, something which was then the frequent accompaniment of conquest—the carrying away of a whole population captive. And to the bitter memory of bygone devastation we have to add the apprehension of what might at any time happen if the country were swept by the Romans, of whose methods their own historian wrote, ‘they make a solitude and call it peace’ (Tac. , 30). The word ‘desolation,’ then, understood in the sense in which it was used when the Authorized Version was made (‘I desolate—I make a countrey unhabyted,’ Palsgrave, a.d. 1530), gives the exact sense of both the Hebrew and the Greek (ἑρήμωσις). It is in this sense that the word is used in the passage where Jesus pronounces doom upon Jerusalem ( Matthew 23:38,  Luke 13:35). The words, ‘Your house is left unto you desolate,’ are a reminiscence of  Jeremiah 22:5 (LXX Septuagint—εἰς ἐρήμωσιν ἔσται ὁ οἶκος οὗτος), and it makes little difference whether ἔρημος stand in the text or not; the general idea is that the house ( i.e. the city, not the temple) is ‘abandoned.’ There is not necessarily in this passage any prediction of the fall of Jerusalem, though the context may seem to suggest this. The idea is rather that, the glory of Jerusalem consisting in her being the city of the great King, she loses all when He abandons her. If she rejects Him, and He departs, she is a forsaken city (cf. the passage in Bunyan’s Holy War where Emmanuel leaves Mansoul; also Josephus B.J. vi. v. 3). Grimm-Thayer interprets ‘desolate’ here as ‘bereft of Christ’s presence, instruction, and aid.’ Contrast with this the promise to the disciples in  John 14:18, which the Authorized Version renders, ‘I will not leave yon desolate’ (ὀρφανούς).

In another passage ( Matthew 12:25,  Luke 11:17), ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation,’ Jesus uses as a forcible illustration that fatal tendency to faction and internal discord which had so often brought His countrymen to ruin (cf. e.g. Josephus Ant. xiv. iv. 2). See also art. Abomination of Desolation.

J. Ross Murray.

King James Dictionary [2]


1. The act of desolating destruction or expulsion of inhabitants destruction ruin waste.

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation.  Matthew 12 .

2. A place deprived of inhabitants, or otherwise wasted, ravaged and ruined.

How is Babylon become a desolation among the nations.  Jeremiah 50 .

3. A desolate state gloominess sadness destitution.

The abomination of desolation, Roman armies which ravaged and destroyed Jerusalem.  Matthew 24 .

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) The act of desolating or laying waste; destruction of inhabitants; depopulation.

(2): ( n.) The state of being desolated or laid waste; ruin; solitariness; destitution; gloominess.

(3): ( n.) A place or country wasted and forsaken.