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 Martyrs Park is what the architect Rem Koolhaas has called junkspace — the leftover, unwanted urban detritus that is the byproduct of modern development. Mark Lamster, Dallas News, "Dallas is planning a lynching memorial: It should think bigger," 24 Jan. 2020 Over footage of detritus in parks and sidewalks, Carlson pressed his guest, the Manhattan Institute’s Seth Barron, about why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district in Queens was so dirty. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Why Tucker Carlson Is Obsessed With Trash," 10 Jan. 2020 By Monday evening the streets were mostly empty, with piles of detritus burning on street corners, and some residents and business owners trying to extinguish blazes with handheld fire extinguishers. Author: Michael Weissenstein And Eva Vergara, Anchorage Daily News, "Fresh protests, looting erupt in Chile despite new Cabinet," 29 Oct. 2019 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

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

26 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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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)

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Nglish: Translation of detritus for Spanish Speakers

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