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 Silently setting off from rest in all-electric mode, one hears only the articulation of suspension, the whirring of big brake rotors and the sound of road detritus crunching under impossibly wide tires. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 26 July 2021 Highways are ripped to pieces, railway bridges lie twisted across rivers clogged with mounds of detritus including cars and caravans. Washington Post, 21 July 2021 While her property came through the storm unscathed, Kuhn said quite a bit of detritus was scattered around the neighborhood. Suzanne Baker,, 24 June 2021 The Energy Department is already investing $19 million in projects in former coal communities to support research into extracting rare earths from coal waste and ash, the detritus left when the fuel is mined or burned. Alistair Macdonald, WSJ, 20 June 2021 Two years after her husband’s death, Lisey remains unmoored, living in a posh farmhouse cluttered with boxes of his detritus and taking soulful dips in the property’s strange, pond-like pool. Judy Berman, Time, 4 June 2021 Essentially, as outlined by its website, PostDates is a a service that outsources one of the most awkward moments of any breakup — picking up the detritus of your former relationship from your ex’s house — to gig workers. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 29 June 2021 Like an explosion, the piece drops splintered detritus on the floor. Susan Dunne,, 14 June 2021 These things represented the detritus of my 18-year-old misadventures. Paul Eisenberg,, 9 May 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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detritus tank

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Last Updated

30 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for detritus



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

Nglish: Translation of detritus for Spanish Speakers


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