1

desert

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noun des·ert \ˈde-zərt\

Definition of desert

  1. 1a :  arid land with usually sparse vegetation; especially :  such land having a very warm climate and receiving less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of sporadic rainfall annuallyb :  an area of water apparently devoid of life

  2. 2 archaic :  a wild uninhabited and uncultivated tract

  3. 3 :  a desolate or forbidding area lost in a desert of doubt

desertic

play \de-ˈzər-tik\ adjective

desertlike

play \-ˌlīk\ adjective

Examples of desert in a Sentence

  1. Satellite images taken this year and 20 years ago show that the desert is in retreat thanks to a resurgence of trees. —Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, 14-20 Oct. 2006

  2. The coastal plain is a desert in terms of precipitation—less than six inches fall annually—but what falls as snow stays to be later distributed by the wind. —John Hildebrand, Harper's, November 2003

  3. The house finch, a songbird native to the Western desert, has proved to be highly adaptable, having rapidly colonized the Eastern states after its release on Long Island in the early 1940's. —Jane E. Brody, New York Times, 1 Jan. 2002

Where does the idiom just deserts come from?

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.

Origin and Etymology of desert

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin desertum, from Latin, neuter of desertus, past participle of deserere to desert, from de- + serere to join together — more at series


First Known Use: 13th century


2

desert

play
adjective des·ert \ˈde-zərt\

Definition of desert

  1. 1 :  desolate and sparsely occupied or unoccupied a desert island

  2. 2 :  of or relating to a desert (see 1desert)

  3. 3 archaic :  forsaken

Examples of desert in a Sentence

  1. While my very American mother swabbed the dishes, Dad lingered at the dinner table, recreating in visceral detail the taste of mint in a Bedouin teacup under a desert sky, or the golden plumage of his father's saluki dogs, or the filigreed robes of the young king at the camel races. —Diana Abu-Jaber, Vogue, May 2007

  2. … the place in the Texas Panhandle where Highway 66 rolled down off the land of farms and ranches into the beginnings of the desert grassland and red-rock country that dominated New Mexico. —Susan Croce Kelly, Route 66, 1988

Origin and Etymology of desert

see 1desert


First Known Use: 13th century


3

desert

play
noun de·sert \di-ˈzərt\

Definition of desert

  1. 1 :  the quality or fact of meriting reward or punishment

  2. 2 :  deserved reward or punishment —usually used in plural got their just deserts

  3. 3 :  excellence, worth

Origin and Etymology of desert

Middle English deserte, from Anglo-French, from feminine of desert, past participle of deservir to deserve


First Known Use: 13th century


4

desert

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verb de·sert \di-ˈzərt\

Definition of desert

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to withdraw from or leave usually without intent to return desert a town

  3. 2a :  to leave in the lurch desert a friend in troubleb :  to abandon (military service) without leave

  4. intransitive verb
  5. :  to quit one's post, allegiance, or service without leave or justification; especially :  to abandon military duty without leave and without intent to return

deserter

noun

Examples of desert in a Sentence

  1. Boulet saw his longtime partner desert him in the midst of the storm, then had his wife and daughter skip town in its aftermath. —Mike Flaherty, TV Guide, 10-16 Sept. 2007

  2. Left alone for a moment, he feels mournful, bereft—and then panicky, when he thinks he has been deserted again. —Richard Corliss, Time, 7 Mar. 2005

  3. But now the building seemed deserted at two in the afternoon, and I soon learned that the paper, incredibly, was forced to advertise for applicants to the staff. —Arthur Miller, Timebends, 1987

  4. The inhabitants had deserted the town.

  5. She had been married for just over a year when her husband deserted her.

  6. He was deserted by his friends and family.

Origin and Etymology of desert

French déserter, from Late Latin desertare, frequentative of Latin deserere


First Known Use: 1603

Synonym Discussion of desert

abandon, desert, forsake mean to leave without intending to return. abandon suggests that the thing or person left may be helpless without protection. abandoned children desert implies that the object left may be weakened but not destroyed by one's absence. a deserted town forsake suggests an action more likely to bring impoverishment or bereavement to that which is forsaken than its exposure to physical dangers. a forsaken lover


DESERT Defined for English Language Learners

desert

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verb

Definition of desert for English Language Learners

  • : to go away from (a place) : to leave (a place)

  • : to leave and stop helping or supporting (someone or something)

  • of a useful quality or ability : to no longer be with (someone) in a time of need


DESERT Defined for Kids

1

desert

play
noun des·ert \ˈde-zərt\

Definition of desert for Students

  1. :  a dry land with few plants and little rainfall


2

desert

play
noun de·sert \di-ˈzərt\

Definition of desert for Students

  1. :  a reward or punishment that a person deserves He got his just deserts.


3

desert

play
verb de·sert \di-ˈzərt\

Definition of desert for Students

deserted

;

deserting

  1. 1 :  to leave usually without intending to return The entire population deserted the town.

  2. 2 :  to leave a person or a thing that one should stay with The soldier did not desert his post.

  3. 3 :  to fail in time of need My courage deserted me.

deserter

noun

Headscratcher for desert

There are three words spelled desert. One means a dry land, one means what a person deserves, and one means to abandon a place or person. But none mean the goodies you eat after dinner—that's your dessert!



Seen and Heard

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