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 Some rooms were still derelict and some under construction, but absolutely nothing was finished. Elizabeth Mccracken, The Atlantic, 8 Apr. 2021 The story begins with the Yi’s move to a derelict plot of land in the middle of nowhere Arkansas. Zoe Guy, Marie Claire, 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, 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, 5 Apr. 2021 Per El País, the building had been in derelict condition for years. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, 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, 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, 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, 16 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, auto enthusiasts have been gifted more time to work on fixing up derelict vehicles and the restoration shops have been flooded with new business. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 1 June 2021 Today, tourists can still spy derelict pieces of cableway, bridges and cliffside bases throughout the frigid Alps. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 May 2021 After being left derelict for a decade, Fulham Town Hall has opened its doors as a temporary art and exhibition space before being made into luxury flats. Joanne Shurvell, Forbes, 28 May 2021 The supermarket on the high-profile Uptown site closed more than five years ago, leaving the property derelict. Steve Brown, Dallas News, 27 May 2021 Seven years ago, a developer saw some potential in the derelict brickyards and bought the property. New York Times, 21 May 2021 Elsewhere, Radio Canada reports that Goodwood Plastic Products in Nova Scotia has commercialized synthetic lumber made out of derelict fishing gear and other plastics, using a nearly half-million-dollar grant from the government. Anchorage Daily News, 17 May 2021 After completing his degree in astrodynamics, Jah became acquainted with the problem of space junk—the tens of thousands of derelict satellites, spent rocket boosters, and metal fragments now in orbit around our planet. Adam Mann, The New Yorker, 11 May 2021 Strong property value means few vacant homes and negligible derelict properties., 29 Apr. 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

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Derelict.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 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)

More from Merriam-Webster on derelict

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for derelict

Nglish: Translation of derelict for Spanish Speakers


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