des·​sert | \di-ˈzərt \

Definition of dessert 

1 : a usually sweet course or dish (as of pastry or ice cream) usually served at the end of a meal

2 British : a fresh fruit served after a sweet course

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Where does the phrase 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.

Examples of dessert in a Sentence

She doesn't care for rich desserts. Coffee and tea will be served with dessert. We had ice cream and apple pie for dessert.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Three more bubble tea/Asian dessert spots are new to Bellevue: Kung Fu Tea, Chatime and Mr. Wish. Tan Vinh, The Seattle Times, "From hot ramen to hotter hot pot: 30 restaurant openings in Seattle and on the Eastside," 28 Nov. 2018 Both of these would be wonderful options for a dessert pairing, and great opportunity for a side-by-side tasting! Kristin Tice Studeman, Vogue, "The Best Wine for Every Thanksgiving Scenario," 19 Nov. 2018 Instead of settling on a traditional dessert spread, let guests decorate their own sweet Halloween treats this year. Elle Decor Editors, ELLE Decor, "20 Halloween Party Ideas So Sophisticated They’ll Scare You," 18 Oct. 2018 Bring the spook to your Halloween dessert table with these sweet (and sticky!) decorations. Redbook Test Kitchen, Redbook, "Marshmallow Ghosts," 19 Sep. 2018 Cannes restaurant Lenôtre served a seasonal take on traditional French fare; an appetizer of lobster with pea velouté, sea bass with honeyed tomatoes and arugula, and a dessert buffet. Tamara Abraham, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Wedding Is Part Royal Wedding and Part French Riviera Fairytale," 23 July 2018 By the time the dessert pizzas made the rounds—blackberry and marscapone, anyone? — bikini dreams, waistbands and preconceived notions about limitless eating had all been confronted. Anna Caplan, star-telegram, "The pizza version of a churrascaria exists — so wear your stretchy pants," 11 July 2018 Dez’s dessert joins a growing list of frozen confections inspired by the Eastern Mediterranean, like the booza served in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and the cinnamon-honey ice cream with bits of baklava at the new Ample Hills outpost in Astoria, Queens. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, "Frozen Yogurt With a Twist," 9 July 2018 Dragonfly’s izakaya dessert options change regularly. Lauren Delgado,, "First Bite: Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi's Sunday izakaya lunch," 9 July 2018

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

1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dessert

Middle French, from desservir to clear the table, from des- de- + servir to serve, from Latin servire

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Statistics for dessert

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dessert

The first known use of dessert was in 1600

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More Definitions for dessert



English Language Learners Definition of dessert

: sweet food eaten after the main part of a meal


des·​sert | \di-ˈzərt \

Kids Definition of dessert

: a sweet food eaten at the end of a meal

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More from Merriam-Webster on dessert

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dessert

Spanish Central: Translation of dessert

Nglish: Translation of dessert for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dessert for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about dessert

Comments on dessert

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


a knickknack or trinket

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