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


The officer was charged with being derelict in his duty. the guards were judged derelict in their duty


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 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 Dozens of new restaurants and shops are opening; residential construction projects break ground regularly; once-derelict high-rises downtown have filled up with a new generation of workers. John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press, "Hudson's site project: Your questions answered," 18 Jan. 2018 And no president should be so derelict in duty of protecting our country, right? NBC News, "Meet the Press -February 18, 2018," 18 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The new law states that a derelict vessel prevention program shall, to the extent that general funds are available, establish education and community outreach programs. Anchorage Daily News, "Derelict vessel law sets up ‘DMV gantlet’ for thousands of Alaska mariners," 27 June 2019 In 2016, a pair of businessmen bought the derelict prison from the state and turned it into a visitor attraction. William M. Gurstelle, Twin Cities, "Good ol’ Rocky Top: Visit the history, music, science of northeast Tennessee," 15 June 2019 This is in part because the electricity distribution companies inherited a derelict infrastructure from the Nigerian government through the National Electric Power Authority, which was unbundled in 2005 and privatized in 2013. Samuel Ayokunle Olowosejeje, Quartz Africa, "Nigeria’s unreliable electricity costs its economy $29 billion a year—solar power would save billions," 1 June 2019 Fairchild, who is a co-founder of real estate and construction firm Hunter Chase Capital Partners, is just one of several players in the effort to resurrect the derelict hotel. Steve Brown, Dallas News, "D-FW investors buy Mineral Wells' landmark Baker Hotel for redo," 20 June 2019 In the early aughts, the derelict warehouse at 45–46 Davis Street became a haven for graffiti artists, thanks to an unusual arrangement. Daisy Alioto, The New Republic, "How Graffiti Became Gentrified," 19 June 2019 Old derelict steel structures still stand on the coastline. Nick Rahaim,, "5 best scuba diving spots in California, from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s dive director," 18 June 2019 Edgewood Arsenal today is a collection of derelict buildings attached to a military proving ground, its records housed in the National Archives. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "James Ketchum, Who Conducted LSD Experiments on Soldiers, Dies at 87," 3 June 2019 For decades, most of East Euclid looked like an urban wasteland of derelict lots and a couple of vacant motels. San Antonio Express-News, "Subscribe to the San Antonio Express-News," 3 Jan. 2015

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

24 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for derelict

The first known use of derelict was in 1649

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on derelict

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with derelict

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for derelict

Spanish Central: Translation of derelict

Nglish: Translation of derelict for Spanish Speakers

Comments on derelict

What made you want to look up derelict? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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