Definition of desert
- lost in a desert of doubt
Why do we say that someone has gotten their just deserts? Does this turn of phrase have anything to do with dessert (“a sweet food eaten at the end of a meal”) or desert (“a dry land with few plants and little rainfall”)? In fact, the phrase employs neither of these words. Instead, it uses a completely unrelated word that happens to be pronounced like the word for sweets and spelled like the one for a dry place: desert, meaning “reward or punishment deserved or earned by one’s qualities or acts.” This little-used noun is, as you might have guessed, related to the English verb deserve. It has nothing to do with arid, dry land, or with cookies and ice cream.
The inhabitants had deserted the town.
She had been married for just over a year when her husband deserted her.
He was deserted by his friends and family.
First Known Use: 1603See Words from the same year
What made you want to look up desert? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
to cause to suffer severely from hunger
Get Word of the Day daily email!
Winter Words Quiz