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 Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision, via Cork County Council LONDON — The derelict cargo vessel was last spotted drifting into the sunset, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Elian Peltier, New York Times, "Storm Dennis Blows Ghost Ship to Ireland," 18 Feb. 2020 North Korea is not completely connected by roads, and most of the public relies on a highly dysfunctional and derelict railway system. Joshua Berlinger, CNN, "All of its neighbors have it, so why hasn't North Korea reported any coronavirus cases?," 6 Feb. 2020 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Baghdad Tower is one of the Iraqi capital’s tallest buildings -- and for years has remained derelict. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, "The unfinished Baghdad Tower is a metaphor for a broken country," 27 Feb. 2020 Prosecutors have sought to show that Guyger was derelict in her efforts to save Jean after shooting him. Darran Simon, CNN, "The prosecution rests its case in the Amber Guyger murder trial," 26 Sep. 2019 After a demolition project failed to topple the core of the 11-story former Affiliated Computer Services building, the remainder of the tower was left lopsided, bearing a derelict resemblance to Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa. Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, "Leaning Tower of Dallas survived demolition to become city's accidental Instagram star," 21 Feb. 2020 Between the day its crew was rescued and Sunday, when it was found derelict but visibly undamaged, the vessel drifted for over 16 months. Elian Peltier, New York Times, "Storm Dennis Blows Ghost Ship to Ireland," 18 Feb. 2020 Active Starlink craft are a far cry from inert derelict satellites, of course; SpaceX's satellites will be able to sense and autonomously maneuver away from potential collisions, Musk has said. Mike Wall, Scientific American, "Looming Potential Satellite Smashup Could Spawn Dangerous Debris Swarm," 29 Jan. 2020 The person who destroyed the works, New York real estate developer Gerald Wolkoff, had once been a patron of graffiti artists, allowing them to use his derelict buildings as a canvas. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "5Pointz graffiti has now made an indelible mark on the law and art," 21 Feb. 2020 Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Leada Gore |, al, "Presidents Day 2020: Inspirational quotes from every U.S. president," 17 Feb. 2020 In it the gay African-American of the title lounges in a Chelsea Hotel penthouse, relating outlandish tales about his past as a hustler, houseboy, cabaret performer, bon vivant, and skid row derelict., "Most read on," 11 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for derelict

Time Traveler

The first known use of derelict was in 1649

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Statistics for derelict

Cite this Entry

“Derelict.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

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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

Comments on derelict

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