de·​ser·​tion | \di-ˈzər-shən \

Definition of desertion 

1 : an act of deserting especially : the abandonment without consent or legal justification of a person, post, or relationship and the associated duties and obligations sued for divorce on grounds of desertion

2 : a state of being deserted or forsaken

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Synonyms & Antonyms for desertion


abandonment, dereliction, forsaking



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Examples of desertion in a Sentence

the soldiers were imprisoned for desertion of their posts

Recent Examples on the Web

Experts say desertions surged in 2017 as the National Guard clashed with anti-Maduro protesters almost daily for four months, leaving more than 140 people dead and hundreds more injured and arrested. Washington Post, "Empty stomachs drive Venezuela soldiers to desert in droves," 18 May 2018 Henkelman was hauled before a court-martial and charged with treason, desertion and mutiny—crimes punishable by death. Michael M. Phillips, WSJ, "The One Time American Troops Fought Russians Was at the End of World War I—and They Lost," 9 Nov. 2018 Hughes is awaiting pretrial proceedings for his desertion case at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. Meagan Flynn,, "Airman with top-secret clearance, who disappeared in 1983, is discovered living in California," 11 June 2018 Kennedy, who worked as a security guard at the time of the gun discharge, was arrested by police that day and booked on suspicion of negligent homicide, second-degree cruelty to a juvenile and child desertion. Emily Lane,, "No jail time for Michoud woman in grandson's death after gun went off in bed," 11 Jan. 2018 Hughes was charged with desertion and is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California. CBS News, "Neighbors stunned after "pleasant" man revealed to be long-missing Air Force officer," 12 June 2018 Hughes was charged with desertion and is being held at Travis Air Force Base in California. CBS News, "Neighbors stunned after "pleasant" man revealed to be long-missing Air Force officer," 12 June 2018 That eventually led to him being charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place — crimes that carried a maximum punishment of life in prison. Anchorage Daily News, "Fort Bragg general approves sentence for Bowe Bergdahl," 6 June 2018 Now, Fort Lauderdale police have given him two charges: grand theft of a motor vehicle and desertion of a child. Howard Cohen, miamiherald, "Mom turns her son in as teen is accused of stealing a car with a baby inside, cops say | Miami Herald," 5 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'desertion.' 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 desertion

1591, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for desertion

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for desertion

The first known use of desertion was in 1591

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More Definitions for desertion



Legal Definition of desertion 

: the forsaking of a person, post, or relationship: as

a : permanent withdrawal from living with one's spouse without the spouse's consent and without cause or justification

Note: Desertion is a ground for divorce in many states.

b : intentional permanent termination of custody over one's child also : abandonment

c : abandonment of military duty without leave and without the intent to return

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Comments on desertion

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


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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