despite = although, even though.
Despite is a preposition. Prepositions depict relationships between two words/phrases.
They failed in the test, despite best efforts.
He could not stop alcohol, despite sincere efforts.
The phrasal-preposition "in spite of" can also be used as well.
They failed in the test, in spite of best efforts.
He could not stop alcohol, in spite of sincere efforts.
http://www.elearnenglishlanguage.com/difficulties/despiteinspiteof.html also seems to express this current popular meaning.
Shakespeare's sonnet No. 003 also supports this sense.
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see, despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
Websites advise NOT TO USE the phrase 'in despite of' (probably a forerunner of in spite of). Shakespeare used it in his Century.
Quote from AS YOU LIKE IT.
CELIA. O, a good wish upon you! You will try in time, in despite of a fall. But, turning these jests out of service, let us talk in good earnest.
Another quote from as you like it.
JAQUES. I'll give you a verse to this note that I made yesterday in despite of my invention.
I could not find this 'despite' with the meaning of 'even though' in artha dictionary of wordnet. I have come across a second 'despite'.
despite ~ noun rare 1. lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike he was held in contempt; the despite in which outsiders were held is legendary 2. contemptuous disregard she wanted neither favor nor despite. Similar words: dilike, disregard, neglect. Synonyms : contempt, disregard, scorn.
The word 'spite' has meanings of 'malice, and malevolence'. Despite and despiteful, with the meaning of 'contempt, disregard, scorn' may have this origin. I shall quote from Shakespeare's All is Well that ends Well.
I, his despiteful Juno, sent him forth From courtly friends, with camping foes to live, Where death and danger dogs the heels of worth.
From Antony and Cleopatra.
The angered ocean foams; with which I meant To scourge th' ingratitude that despiteful Rome Cast on my noble father.
From Shakespeare's play CYMBELINE.
IACHIMO. Should he make me Live like Diana's priest betwixt cold sheets, Whiles he is vaulting variable ramps, In your despite, upon your purse? Revenge it. I dedicate myself to your sweet pleasure, More noble than that runagate to your bed, And will continue fast to your affection, Still close as sure.
My suggestion: We shall be better off, by not using the second meaning of despite 'contempt, disregard, scorn' as other words are available. Reason: New learners of English may experience difficulties in comprehension.