des·​sert | \ di-ˈzərt How to pronounce dessert (audio) \

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 The seven bakers put their own spin on kuchen, the official state dessert of South Dakota. Los Angeles Times, 24 May 2021 The show will challenge the seven remaining bakers to add their own spin on kuchen, the official state dessert of South Dakota. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, 24 May 2021 Start off with tempura veggies, try the sweet and sour chicken, and finish off with a dessert. Selena Barrientos, Good Housekeeping, 20 May 2021 End your meal on a sweet note with a housemade dessert like chocolate decadence cake or New York style cheesecake, all for $54.75. The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 May 2021 Passion fruit, of course, is more often dessert than dinner, but its fruitiness seems to complement the endive’s bitterness (akin to how sweet often works with sour). Bill Buford, The New Yorker, 1 Mar. 2021 Croissant bread pudding with caramel and whiskey-lime sauces is dessert. Georgann Yara, The Arizona Republic, 4 May 2021 The effect is a dessert that’s incredibly unfussy and reminiscent of gorgeous Venetian terrazzo flooring speckled with edible goodies rather than marble and quartz. Christian Reynoso, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Apr. 2021 Host Duff Goldman grew up in Sandwich, but his specialty is dessert., 9 Apr. 2021

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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Learn More about dessert

Time Traveler for dessert

Time Traveler

The first known use of dessert was in 1600

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Statistics for dessert

Last Updated

3 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dessert.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce dessert (audio) \

Kids Definition of dessert

: a sweet food eaten at the end of a meal


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