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 But some of the structures remained in place for more than a decade, including a derelict roller coaster. Bill Van Niekerken,, "When Peninsula’s ‘Coney Island of the West’ was snuffed out by a stench," 4 Sep. 2019 Many half-derelict century-old commercial buildings have been redeveloped into loft apartments or scrapped and replaced with snazzy new buildings. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: Weighing the value of what we spend," 18 Aug. 2019 The searchers crest a hill where a derelict trailer creaks in the wind, then follow the slope down toward a clearing. Eric Ogden, Marie Claire, "The Invisible Victims," 10 June 2019 Starlink is a big game with seven rather large planets and dozens of quests, plus lots of things to do in space and planetside (scanning animals, exploring derelict ships, etc.). Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Starlink: Battle for Atlas review: Cool toys, solid spacefaring," 16 Oct. 2018 Formerly overgrown derelict government railway land, the garden is a labor of love created over 20 years by Wendy. Sophie Davies, Condé Nast Traveler, "16 Best Parks in Sydney," 20 Mar. 2018 Neighbors in Airport Heights found a welcome sight Thursday: An excavator in the driveway of a empty, derelict house that had been attracting squatters and other problems. Devin Kelly, Anchorage Daily News, "An abandoned home is sold. An Anchorage neighborhood rejoices.," 29 June 2018 Windows were broken in the house, the kitchen ceiling was collapsing and outside, several pieces of derelict farm equipment sat rusting. John Maccormack, San Antonio Express-News, "Old American colony in Mexico clings to its past," 18 May 2018 The property was so derelict auction attendees were asked to sign a waiver before entering. Jessica Mudditt, CNN, "Would you pay $1.1M for this derelict Sydney house?," 18 Apr. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Over 60% of Glasgow’s population lives within 500 metres of a derelict site. Sam Rigby, Quartz, "The Scottish city trying to make urban living less miserable," 2 Nov. 2019 Videos, images, and stories of police brutality against those deemed of having broken that holy law of paying $2.75 to ride New York’s derelict subway system have all been making the rounds this past week. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Class War of Fare-Dodging Crackdowns," 31 Oct. 2019 Instead, he is assigned to run Haven, a derelict London spy substation. Don Oldenburg, USA TODAY, "'Agent Running in the Field' a modern spy thriller from master John le Carré," 22 Oct. 2019 After receiving little care for decades, the derelict mansion leaned into its spooky state, offering ghost and murder mystery tours. Mackenzie Schmidt,, "Jennifer Lawrence's Rumored Wedding Venue Has a Shocking — Sometimes Spooky — History," 17 Oct. 2019 Back then, the building and adjoining house were in derelict condition and the neighborhood was known as unsafe. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Quirky Carlsbad bookstore and arts hub facing unexpected eviction," 13 Oct. 2019 The aim is solely to cut down on derelict lines, which are not only harmful to fish, but to birds and other wildlife as well. Matt Wyatt, Houston Chronicle, "TPWD seeks public's input on proposed passive fishing regulations," 5 Oct. 2019 The National Register listing would be the latest curveball in the history of one of St. Paul’s most beloved vacant and semi-derelict buildings. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "University Avenue Ford Building could be demolished — or added to National Register of Historic Places," 21 Aug. 2019 Greek Cypriot and Turkish army guard posts still flank the hotel's outer perimeter, as do derelict homes abandoned amid the fighting. Menelaos Hadjicostis, Fox News, "Aging grand hotel highlights the ethnic division in Cyprus," 16 June 2019

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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Statistics for derelict

Last Updated

30 Sep 2019

Time Traveler for derelict

The first known use of derelict was in 1649

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More Definitions for derelict


How to pronounce derelict (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on derelict

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for derelict

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with derelict

Spanish Central: Translation of derelict

Nglish: Translation of derelict for Spanish Speakers

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