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 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 In 2016, the stupa was a crumbling stub poking up amid a mound of detritus, its elaborate patterns of arches nearly worn away. New York Times, "How One Looted Artifact Tells the Story of Modern Afghanistan," 4 Mar. 2021 Some sponges filter organic detritus from the water, whereas others are carnivorous, feasting on tiny animals. Matt Simon, Wired, "Scientists Accidentally Discover Strange Creatures Under a Half Mile of Ice," 15 Feb. 2021 All this activity produces detritus—and dead animals—that one day become marine snow. Matt Simon, Wired, "Scientists Accidentally Discover Strange Creatures Under a Half Mile of Ice," 15 Feb. 2021 Landmarks of Western music are reduced to technological detritus. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Drenching Richness of Andrei Tarkovsky," 8 Feb. 2021 State utility regulators Thursday approved CenterPoint Energy's proposal to create a Minnesota supply system for renewable natural gas, a fuel created from manure, food waste and other organic detritus. Mike Hughlett, Star Tribune, "PUC backs CenterPoint plan for renewable natural gas system," 19 Nov. 2020 Crushed plastic top hats, ribbons, tassels, and other festive detritus littered the streets as several dozen people lined up on the sidewalk in front of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. The New Yorker, "Sunday Reading: The Promises of the New Year," 3 Jan. 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

1 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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)

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Nglish: Translation of detritus for Spanish Speakers

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