noun \ˈde-zərt\

Definition of DESERT

a :  arid land with usually sparse vegetation; especially :  such land having a very warm climate and receiving less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of sporadic rainfall annually
b :  an area of water apparently devoid of life
archaic :  a wild uninhabited and uncultivated tract
:  a desolate or forbidding area <lost in a desert of doubt>
de·ser·tic \de-ˈzər-tik\ adjective
des·ert·like \-ˌlīk\ adjective

Examples of DESERT

  1. Satellite images taken this year and 20 years ago show that the desert is in retreat thanks to a resurgence of trees. —Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, 14-20 Oct. 2006

Origin of DESERT

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin desertum, from Latin, neuter of desertus, past participle of deserere to desert, from de- + serere to join together — more at series
First Known Use: 13th century

Other Geology Terms

anthracite, boulder, cwm, erratic, igneous, intrusive, mesa, sedimentary, silt, swale


adjective \ˈde-zərt\

Definition of DESERT

:  desolate and sparsely occupied or unoccupied <a desert island>
:  of or relating to a desert (see 1desert)
archaic :  forsaken

Examples of DESERT

  1. While my very American mother swabbed the dishes, Dad lingered at the dinner table, recreating in visceral detail the taste of mint in a Bedouin teacup under a desert sky, or the golden plumage of his father's saluki dogs, or the filigreed robes of the young king at the camel races. —Diana Abu-Jaber, Vogue, May 2007

Origin of DESERT

(see 1desert)
First Known Use: 13th century

Other Ecology Terms

Malthusian, anthropogenic, biomass, carbon footprint, crepuscular, niche, sere, symbiosis, taiga, tundra


noun \di-ˈzərt\

Definition of DESERT

:  the quality or fact of meriting reward or punishment
:  deserved reward or punishment —usually used in plural <got their just deserts>

Origin of DESERT

Middle English deserte, from Anglo-French, from feminine of desert, past participle of deservir to deserve
First Known Use: 13th century


verb \di-ˈzərt\

: to go away from (a place) : to leave (a place)

: to leave and stop helping or supporting (someone or something)

of a useful quality or ability : to no longer be with (someone) in a time of need

Full Definition of DESERT

transitive verb
:  to withdraw from or leave usually without intent to return <desert a town>
a :  to leave in the lurch <desert a friend in trouble>
b :  to abandon (military service) without leave
intransitive verb
:  to quit one's post, allegiance, or service without leave or justification; especially :  to abandon military duty without leave and without intent to return
de·sert·er noun

Examples of DESERT

  1. The inhabitants had deserted the town.
  2. She had been married for just over a year when her husband deserted her.
  3. He was deserted by his friends and family.
  4. Boulet saw his longtime partner desert him in the midst of the storm, then had his wife and daughter skip town in its aftermath. —Mike Flaherty, TV Guide, 10-16 Sept. 2007

Origin of DESERT

French déserter, from Late Latin desertare, frequentative of Latin deserere
First Known Use: 1603


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Agave shawii growing in a desert in North America.—© Robert and Linda Mitchell

Large, extremely dry area of land with fairly sparse vegetation. It is one of the Earth's major types of ecosystems. Areas with a mean annual precipitation of 10 in. (250 mm) or less are generally considered deserts. They include the high-latitude circumpolar areas as well as the more familiar hot, arid regions of the low and mid-latitudes. Desert terrain may consist of rugged mountains, high plateaus, or plains; many occupy broad mountain-rimmed basins. Surface materials include bare bedrock, plains of gravel and boulders, and vast tracts of shifting sand. Wind-blown sands, commonly thought to be typical of deserts, make up only about 2% of North American deserts, 10% of the Sahara, and 30% of the Arabian desert.


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