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

Other Words from detritus

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

Did you know?

If you use detritus in speech, remember to stress the second syllable, as you do in the words arthritis and bronchitis. Once you've mastered its meaning and pronunciation, you'll find that detritus is a term—originally a geology term—that can be applied in many situations. After the first hard freeze of fall, gardens are littered with the detritus of the summer's plants and produce: stalks, leaves, vines, and maybe even an abandoned hand trowel. As a flood-swollen river retreats to its banks, it leaves detritus—debris gathered by the raging waters—in its wake. The detritus of civilization may include junkyards and abandoned buildings; mental detritus may include all kinds of useless trivia.

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 Carmy’s desk is littered with unpaid invoices and notices, the detritus of a floundering business — as well as half-empty bottles of Fernet-Branca and Pepto-Bismol, both common food-world swigs. Emily Heil, Washington Post, 6 July 2022 And for those actually living through all this destruction and the killing, the detritus of battle carries its own allure after the shooting has stopped and the air raid sirens have gone silent. New York Times, 13 June 2022 His five-minute plea was intercut with scenes of the detritus of war large and small, from buildings being blown up to a close up of a battered and bloodied stuffed animal left behind on a road by a fleeing family. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 11 June 2022 This trash can contains the detritus of a COVID-19 booster shot clinic at a nursing home in Spain. Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, 4 Feb. 2022 In Israel, circumcision fever truly broke the thermometer in the nineteen-nineties, as waves of Jews arrived from the detritus of the former Soviet Union. Gary Shteyngart, The New Yorker, 4 Oct. 2021 Ukrainian military teams have cleared major thoroughfares of mines, shells and other lethal detritus. Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2022 His garden was littered with spent shell casings, shell holes and other detritus of battle. New York Times, 18 May 2022 Over the years, the public has seen the detritus of violence such as the blood stains and the police tape. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, 31 May 2022 See More

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.

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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detritus tank

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Last Updated

18 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for detritus


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)

More from Merriam-Webster on detritus

Nglish: Translation of detritus for Spanish Speakers


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