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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from detritus

detrital \ di-​ˈtrī-​tᵊl How to pronounce detrital (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 Even worse, the gang has managed to acquire an AT-ST Imperial walker from the detritus of the Empire. Angry Staff Officer, Wired, "The Mandalorian Is the Only Smart Soldier in the Star Wars Galaxy," 14 Jan. 2020 The hinge that allows the device to flex could let in water and detritus. Washington Post, "Samsung’s $2,000 folding screen is a peek into our flip-phone future," 2 Oct. 2019 Often associated with detritus and decay, mushrooms have long shirked the limelight—or perhaps they’ve been intentionally left out. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Get a Taste for Mushroom Art at This New, Fungus-Forward Exhibition," 28 Dec. 2019 The detritus is then cleaned, shredded and pressed into blocks manually. Anna Fletcher, CNN, "Indian student creates a brick made from recycled plastic," 25 Nov. 2019 Like the artist’s larger body of work, the piece tackles difficult ideas with mordant humor and the detritus of everyday life. Los Angeles Times, "Artist Nayland Blake toys with race and queerness," 30 Sep. 2019 Ninomiya reminds his audience of the precariousness of nature in the jolting appearance of a woman in slick, lacquered black detritus. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, "Evaluating the environment — and ourselves — at the Comme des Garçons and Noir by Kei Ninomiya shows," 29 Sep. 2019 Cleanup has barely begun in most places, raising concern that the high winds of a tropical storm could turn remaining detritus into missiles., "Bahamas spared as Tropical Storm Humberto moves away," 14 Sep. 2019 From there, the detritus of his life becomes a bewildering jumble of tour itineraries, recording budgets and lyric sheets, as well as journal entries and other dispatches from his increasingly surreal life. Jordan Runtagh,, "New Book of Jeff Buckley’s Journals and Belongings Offers a Vivid Self-Portrait of the Late Artist," 31 Oct. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about detritus

Time Traveler for detritus

Time Traveler

The first known use of detritus was in 1802

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about detritus

Statistics for detritus

Last Updated

29 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for detritus


How to pronounce detritus (audio)

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)

More from Merriam-Webster on detritus

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for detritus

Nglish: Translation of detritus for Spanish Speakers

Comments on detritus

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!