de·​tri·​tus | \ di-ˈtrī-təs How to pronounce detritus (audio) \
plural detritus\ di-​ˈtrī-​təs How to pronounce detritus (audio) , -​ˈtrī-​ˌtüs \

Definition of detritus

1 geology : loose material (such as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration
2a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris
b : miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends still picking up detritus from the block party … sifting through the detritus of his childhood …— Michael Tomasky

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Other Words from detritus

detrital \ di-​ˈtrī-​tᵊl How to pronounce detritus (audio) \ adjective

How Do You Pronounce detritus?

After the first hard freeze of fall, gardens are sadly littered with the detritus of the summer's plants and produce: stalks, leaves, vines, rotted vegetables, and maybe even a hand trowel left behind. As the flooding Mississippi River retreats back to its ordinary course, it leaves detritus behind in its wake, debris gathered from everywhere by the raging waters. The detritus of civilization may include junkyards and abandoned buildings; mental detritus may include all kinds of useless trivia. Notice how this word is pronounced; for some reason, people often try to accent the first syllable rather than the second.

Examples of detritus in a Sentence

the detritus of ancient civilizations As he packed, he sifted through the detritus of a failed relationship.
Recent Examples on the Web More troublingly, other animals confused the detritus with dinner. Jessica Leigh Hester, Wired, "We’re Starting to See How Covid PPE Litter Affects Wildlife," 17 Apr. 2021 Viral aerosols are tiny and compose just a small fraction of the detritus that floats around in the air. Emily Anthes, New York Times, "The Next Trick: Pulling Coronavirus Out of Thin Air," 24 Mar. 2021 Instead of just smashing protons together and looking for signs of a new particle in the detritus, as the LHC did in its successful brute-force search for the Higgs boson, LHCb looks at minor variations in the one-in-a-million events. Daniel Garisto, Scientific American, "Unexplained Results Intrigue Physicists at World’s Largest Particle Collider," 25 Mar. 2021 Some nearby residents, complaining of drug use, crime and mounds of detritus, have garnered more than 4,000 signatures on an online petition asking the city to remove the camp. Benjamin Oreskes, Los Angeles Times, "Everything you need to know about the Echo Park homeless encampment," 23 Mar. 2021 The proprietary power cable for the Toshiba is lost amongst the detritus. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Ten years of improvements have made Chromebooks pretty great," 12 Mar. 2021 The latest excavation of the horti unfolded under the detritus of the residences, which had been evacuated in the 1970s in the wake of a building collapse. New York Times, "Caligula’s Garden of Delights, Unearthed and Restored," 12 Jan. 2021 The out-and-back course meant teams were doubling back over stretches of trail that hundreds of dogs had already traversed, leaving excrement, scraps of food and various detritus. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, "6 takeaways from an Iditarod unlike any other," 19 Mar. 2021 Harris cobbles together out of internet detritus, except here the ephemera are drawn from his own life. Erik Maza, Town & Country, "Jeremy O. Harris at Home, Ready to Go," 11 Mar. 2021

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

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for detritus

French détritus, from Latin detritus, past participle of deterere — see detriment

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Time Traveler for detritus

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The first known use of detritus was in 1802

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Last Updated

25 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for detritus



English Language Learners Definition of detritus

formal : the pieces that are left when something breaks, falls apart, is destroyed, etc.


de·​tri·​tus | \ di-ˈtrīt-əs How to pronounce detritus (audio) \
plural detritus\ -​ˈtrīt-​əs How to pronounce detritus (audio) , -​ˈtrī-​ˌtüs How to pronounce detritus (audio) \

Medical Definition of detritus

: loose material resulting from disintegration (as of tissue)

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Nglish: Translation of detritus for Spanish Speakers

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