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").

Example Sentences

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 This will protect the flower buds from the strong winds which can desiccate them. Dave Epstein,, 30 Jan. 2023 Rainy winters and springs encourage the growth of plants, which desiccate in the dry summer and turn into fuel. Wired, 21 July 2022 Edward is in the grip of a grotesque malady that causes his flesh to desiccate and slough away. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 17 June 2022 But the winds also desiccate vegetation and create dangerous wildfire conditions. Los Angeles Times, 11 Nov. 2021 At shallow depths, the eggs would cook and desiccate. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 25 June 2021 Comparatively, the cremated young adult was burned before their body had begun to desiccate and decompose. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Aug. 2020 Here, volcanic lakes, acid pools, desiccated basins, and subterranean caverns are no match for biology. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, 26 Aug. 2019 These efforts to resurrect pieces of the delta’s desiccated ecosystems face major challenges, including limited funds, scarce water supplies, and the hotter, drier conditions brought on by climate change. Ian James,, 19 Apr. 2020 See More

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 31 Mar. 2023.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on desiccate

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