de·​ser·​tion di-ˈzər-shən How to pronounce desertion (audio)
: 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
: a state of being deserted or forsaken

Examples of desertion in a Sentence

the soldiers were imprisoned for desertion of their posts
Recent Examples on the Web King is charged with eight counts, according to the charging sheet, including desertion in connection with his dash into North Korea, one of the world’s most reclusive countries. Phil Helsel, NBC News, 20 Oct. 2023 Citing documents related to the case, NBC reports that King has now been charged with eight counts by the U.S. Army, including desertion, assault of his fellow soldiers and soliciting child pornography. Virginia Chamlee, Peoplemag, 20 Oct. 2023 Army private Travis King, who bolted to North Korea earlier this year, has been charged with a host of crime from the U.S. ranging from desertion to possessing child pornography, according to a report from Reuters. Sarah Rumpf-Whitten, Fox News, 20 Oct. 2023 Travis King, the U.S. soldier who crossed into North Korea from South Korea earlier this year, has been charged by the Army with several crimes, including desertion, assaulting other soldiers and officers, and soliciting and possessing child pornography, according to documents obtained by CBS News. Jordan Freiman, CBS News, 19 Oct. 2023 Herbert Morris aged 17 was executed for desertion by firing squad composed of 7 WEST INDIAN soldiers and 3 white soldiers. Ishion Hutchinson, The New York Review of Books, 12 Oct. 2023 Under Maryland's previous law, a person could only be granted a divorce for adultery, desertion, criminal convictions, insanity, cruelty, and after a mandatory 12-month separation period. Barnini Chakraborty, Washington Examiner, 2 Oct. 2023 Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Kevin Shalvey, ABC News, 26 July 2023 Not even a total desertion of all her social media accounts has prevented her from becoming a TikTok favorite for her plaintive, devastating ballads. August Brown, Los Angeles Times, 29 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'desertion.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Latin dēsertiōn-, dēsertiō, from dēserere "to part company with, abandon, leave uninhabited, leave in the lurch" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at desert entry 3

First Known Use

1591, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of desertion was in 1591

Dictionary Entries Near desertion

Cite this Entry

“Desertion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Legal Definition


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

: intentional permanent termination of custody over one's child
also : abandonment
: abandonment of military duty without leave and without the intent to return

More from Merriam-Webster on desertion

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