de·tri·tus | \di-ˈtrī-təs \
plural detritus\-ˈtrī-təs, -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 \-ˈtrī-tᵊl \ 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

Some pieces were simply plucked from the detritus and left unchanged. Kevin Fagan,, "Wine Country artists find new life, inspiration in the wreckage of studios," 9 July 2018 One of them yielded images of plumes of smoke and detritus following the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 — and a photo of a young couple flanking an older woman holding a baby. Alice Short,, "Rediscovered memories on forgotten rolls of film: The Lost Rolls America project displays its trove," 12 Apr. 2018 The tidal wave had killed 11 people in Okuma; the 12th had not yet been found, and so there was an ugly mound of broken board, sheet metal, rags and other detritus on the beach where the bulldozers had gone corpse-hunting. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "As Innocuous as Plant No. 1," 10 Apr. 2018 Near my home is a grass triangle of land that serves as a magnet for detritus. Bill Torpy, ajc, "Torpy at Large: Any excuse given for littering is garbage," 6 July 2018 Vintage WWII detritus is not unheard of on the island, which was used in the mid-1940s as an air-to-ground rocket range by air crews training at Rhode Island’s Quonset Point Naval Air Station. Dugan Arnett,, "On tranquil Nantucket, a new worry about what’s under the sand," 3 July 2018 Porcupine and Skunk try to cheer him up with gifts of detritus from around the woods and pond — an old shoe, a red and white fishing bob, some acorns. New York Times, "Brief Tales for New Readers and Little Listeners From Philip Stead and More," 29 June 2018 The detritus of the missile war is on display at the Officers Club in Riyadh, where the Saudis hold military briefings. The Economist, "Insecurity complexGulf states fear being encircled by Iran and abandoned by America," 21 June 2018 The pop culture detritus from the era suggests Yarrow is on to something. Daniel Arkin /, NBC News, "Lorena Bobbitt was a late-night punchline. She's finally getting her due.," 23 June 2018

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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Statistics for detritus

Last Updated

8 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for detritus

The first known use of detritus was in 1802

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English Language Learners Definition of detritus

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


de·tri·tus | \di-ˈtrīt-əs \
plural detritus\-ˈtrīt-əs, -ˈtrī-ˌtüs \

Medical Definition of detritus 

: loose material resulting from disintegration (as of tissue)

More from Merriam-Webster on detritus

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Nglish: Translation of detritus for Spanish Speakers

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