des·​ic·​cate ˈde-si-ˌkāt How to pronounce desiccate (audio)
desiccated; desiccating

transitive verb

: to dry up
the desiccated land
: to preserve (a food) by drying : dehydrate
desiccated coconut
: to drain of emotional or intellectual vitality
… a charming little romance … not desiccated and compressed within the pages of a bookElinor Wylie

intransitive verb

: to become dried up
leaves desiccating in winter
Lake Valencia has been … steadily desiccating for more than 200 years.J. Platt Bradbury et al.
desiccative adjective
desiccator noun

Did you know?

Raisins are desiccated grapes; they're also dehydrated grapes. And yet, a close look at the etymologies of desiccate and dehydrate raises a tangly question. In Latin siccus means "dry," whereas the Greek stem hydr- means "water." So how could it be that desiccate and dehydrate are synonyms? The answer is in the multiple identities of the prefix de-. It may look like the same prefix, but the de- in desiccate means "completely, thoroughly," as in despoil ("to spoil utterly") or denude ("to strip completely bare"). The de- in dehydrate, on the other hand, means "remove," the same as it does in defoliate ("to strip of leaves") or in deice ("to rid of ice").

Examples of desiccate in a Sentence

that historian's dryasdust prose desiccates what is actually an exciting period in European history add a cup of desiccated coconut to the mix
Recent Examples on the Web But before that, higher temperatures desiccate the grapes, concentrating the sugars. Matt Simon, WIRED, 26 Mar. 2024 The tough skin, with scales made out of the same material as your fingernails, was able to desiccate and stand a better chance of being buried with the animal’s bones. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Jan. 2024 But by restricting the flow of the valley’s rivers, the government and the farmers also desiccated much of the valley’s land, depriving it of floodwaters that had nourished it for centuries. Jake Bittle, WIRED, 6 Jan. 2024 The sequence of a particularly bountiful wet season that allows grasses to grow, followed by a dry spell that desiccates them, results in a particularly high fuel load for fires, Brewington said. Rong-Gong Lin Ii, Los Angeles Times, 11 Aug. 2023 The grass will grow like crazy when the rains come, then quickly desiccate when the landscape dries. WIRED, 10 Aug. 2023 What, precisely, is sick and warped and desiccated about today’s Republican Party? Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, 21 July 2023 The decline of the Salton Sea, however, does not mean Southern California will forever be protected against a San Andreas earthquake as long as that area is desiccating. Rong-Gong Lin Ii, Los Angeles Times, 9 June 2023 Nye acts as a tour guide — and human crash dummy — for each scenario, demonstrating how planet-demolishing disasters like killer earthquakes, desiccating dust storms and record-shattering hurricanes would play out. Alex Orlando, Discover Magazine, 1 May 2023

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

Word History


Latin desiccatus, past participle of desiccare to dry up, from de- + siccare to dry, from siccus dry — more at sack

First Known Use

1575, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of desiccate was in 1575


Dictionary Entries Near desiccate

Cite this Entry

“Desiccate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Medical Definition


des·​ic·​cate ˈdes-i-ˌkāt How to pronounce desiccate (audio)
desiccated; desiccating

transitive verb

: to dry up or cause to dry up : deprive or exhaust of moisture
especially : to dry thoroughly
uses radio frequencies of 100,000 Hz to 10,000,000 Hz to cut, coagulate, and desiccate tissue Bettyann Hutchisson et al.
: to preserve a food by drying : dehydrate
desiccated coconut

intransitive verb

: to become dried up : undergo a desiccating process

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