der·​e·​lict | \ ˈder-ə-ˌlikt How to pronounce derelict (audio) , ˈde-rə- \

Definition of derelict

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : abandoned especially by the owner or occupant derelict warehouses also : run-down a derelict neighborhood
2 : lacking a sense of duty : negligent derelict in his duty derelict landlords



Definition of derelict (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : something voluntarily abandoned especially : a ship abandoned on the high seas
b geology : a tract of land left dry by receding water
2 : a destitute homeless social misfit : vagrant, bum

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Derelict Has Latin Roots


The Latin verb relinquere left behind a few English derivatives. This word, itself meaning "to leave behind," is the root of our "derelict." Something derelict has been left behind, or at least appears that way. In another sense, someone derelict leaves behind or neglects his or her duties or obligations. Another descendent of "relinquere" is relinquish, meaning "to leave behind, "to give up," or "to release." "Relic" is another example of a word that ultimately comes from "relinquere." "Relics," in the original sense of the term, referred to things treasured for their association with a saint or martyr - that is, objects saints and martyrs had left behind.

Examples of derelict in a Sentence

Adjective The officer was charged with being derelict in his duty. the guards were judged derelict in their duty Noun It was a run-down neighborhood filled with drugs addicts and derelicts. a section of the city that seemed to be frequented mostly by derelicts
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The story begins with the Yi’s move to a derelict plot of land in the middle of nowhere Arkansas. Zoe Guy, Marie Claire, "'Minari' Tells the Story of a Family Trying to Make It in America," 25 Apr. 2021 The area originally consisted of a derelict collection of 10 Craftsman bungalows near Venice Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, which the two men cleaned up and used as a hub for like-minded people of all ages interested in exploring creative pursuits. Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times, "Roderick Sykes, co-founder of L.A. Black art enclave St. Elmo Village, dies," 21 Apr. 2021 And over the years, while the prospect of a definitive renovation glimmered on the horizon, the structure grew more and more derelict, leaky, and cramped. Justin Davidson, Curbed, "Geffen Hall’s Renovation Will Be Finished Two Years Early," 5 Apr. 2021 Per El País, the building had been in derelict condition for years. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Fire at 16th-Century Mexican Church Prompts Debate Over How to Protect Cultural Heritage," 18 Mar. 2021 Urban-centric, green-thinking locals are reinvigorating once derelict industrial neighborhoods, while outdoorsy transplants are moving in to take advantage of the city’s enviable position minutes from the mountains. Jeremy Pugh, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Weekend Guide: Hiking, Wildlife, and Mile-High Biscuits in Salt Lake City," 23 Mar. 2021 New Orleans has been trying for years to redevelop the derelict 227-acre site which was abandoned following Hurricane Katrina, almost 16 years ago. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Drew Brees Suggests Redevelopment Plan for New Orleans’ Abandoned Six Flags," 18 Mar. 2021 Through March 2020 the program provided collection bins at 56 ports and collected over 4 million pounds of gear normally destined for landfills, or which often ends up as derelict marine debris. Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s salmon harvest for 2021 is projected to be a big one," 16 Mar. 2021 Those folks are pitiful and derelict in their responsibilities to their fellow citizens. Arkansas Online, "Letters," 13 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Strong property value means few vacant homes and negligible derelict properties., "Sykesville election: Candidates for mayor, council answer questions," 29 Apr. 2021 The supermarket on the high-profile Uptown site closed more than five years ago, leaving the property derelict. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "Uptown Dallas’ Central Market project will add hundreds of residential units," 5 Apr. 2021 Other scientists, such as the London Science Museum’s Michael Wright, have attempted to create models of the Antikythera mechanism in the past, per the Guardian, but its derelict state has made the process a difficult one. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Scientists May Have Discovered How the Ancient Greeks’ ‘First Computer’ Tracked the Cosmos," 17 Mar. 2021 From left: The Callanish Stones, on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, are thought to be more than 5,000 years old; Monkstadt 1745, a once-derelict home of a clan chieftain that was recently repurposed as a boutique hotel. Stanley Stewart, Travel + Leisure, "Visit Distilleries, Castles, and Dramatic Cliffs on Scotland’s Hebrides Islands," 22 Mar. 2021 For over a decade, derelict fishing nets, lines, pots and other marine debris have generated enough electricity to power over 44,000 homes per year. Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska’s salmon harvest for 2021 is projected to be a big one," 16 Mar. 2021 The German fashion and celeb photographer — who notably once shot a magazine spread of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West and himself amid derelict grounds in France — apparently digs the not-so-perfect look in his work? Los Angeles Times, "Go ahead and laugh at Juergen Teller’s ridiculous photos of celebs in L.A.," 25 Feb. 2021 Over the years, the fate of the derelict House of Soviets became entwined with competing ideas about the future of Kaliningrad itself, a Russian exclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania. New York Times, "The Haunted House of Soviets Gets a New Life," 16 Feb. 2021 The City of Refuge, the intown ministry for homeless people, plans to upgrade a derelict building on Atlanta’s Westside into affordable apartments. Andy Peters, ajc, "Affordable housing planned for historic Atlanta hotel," 9 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'derelict.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of derelict


1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1670, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for derelict

Adjective and Noun

Latin derelictus, past participle of derelinquere to abandon, from de- + relinquere to leave — more at relinquish

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Time Traveler for derelict

Time Traveler

The first known use of derelict was in 1649

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Statistics for derelict

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Derelict.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for derelict



English Language Learners Definition of derelict

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: no longer cared for or used by anyone
US, formal : failing to do what should be done



English Language Learners Definition of derelict (Entry 2 of 2)

formal + disapproving : a person who has no money, job, home, etc.


der·​e·​lict | \ ˈder-ə-ˌlikt How to pronounce derelict (audio) \

Kids Definition of derelict

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : abandoned by the owner or occupant
2 : in poor condition : run-down a derelict old building
3 : failing to do what should be done They were derelict in their duties.



Kids Definition of derelict (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something abandoned (as a boat)

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Nglish: Translation of derelict for Spanish Speakers

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