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 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

Richard Serra, whose family lived a couple of houses away from the di Suveros, in the Sunset District, remembers di Suvero making structures out of driftwood and detritus scavenged from the beach. Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker, "Will Los Angeles Lose a Beloved Piece of Public Art?," 9 July 2019 Fewer needles The number of needles that once piled up in BART’s downtown San Francisco stations — detritus from a heroin and speed epidemic that’s choked city streets and seeped into the transit system — is suddenly declining. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: Silicon Valley tiptoes into abortion debate," 8 July 2019 Amid the detritus from protests that turned violent in Hong Kong this week was umbrellas. Washington Post, "AP PHOTOS: Umbrellas, a Hong Kong protest symbol, broken," 15 June 2019 Our current understanding is that an ancient Mars-sized world slammed into early Earth billions of years ago, and that the detritus from this encounter eventually coalesced into the moon. Korey Haynes, Discover Magazine, "Legacy of Lunar Data: How Apollo Revealed our Moon," 20 May 2019 Out of that detritus, the scientists could extract all the DNA from the sample in a jumble of fragments. Quanta Magazine, "Scientists Map 5,000 New Ocean Viruses," 21 May 2015 All of the meteorites came from Camp del Cielo, a site in Argentina covered with space detritus that scientists have dated back 4,000 years. Deborah Martin,, "Blue Star Contemporary exhibit ‘Fünf’ spotlights Berlin residency," 21 June 2019 Meanwhile, construction crews are repairing the bus deck: picking up detritus and restoring ceiling panels, post coverings and fireproofing that was removed for repairs and inspections. Michael Cabanatuan,, "Transbay center: With repairs done, officials must convince public it’s safe," 13 June 2019 Video: Commonly known as wheel animals, rotifers feed by means of a ring of slender projections called cilia, which appear to spin like a propeller as the animal draws in water filled with a meal of dead bacteria, algae and other detritus. Quanta Magazine, "Ancient Survivors Could Redefine Sex," 19 Nov. 2014

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

16 Jul 2019

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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

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).


an act or instance of editing or removing

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