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 One by one, they were escorted from their station on a city block strewn with the detritus of rebellion. Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, "In Minneapolis, the Shocking Arrest of the Journalist Omar Jimenez Live on CNN," 29 May 2020 Nurses scrambled for supplies, wrappers and plastic gloves flipped into the air, left scattered on the hospital floor like emergency detritus. Andrew Bast, CBS News, "View from the front lines: The lives impacted by coronavirus in New York City," 14 May 2020 Using the abundant detritus, residents (mostly) and others build sculptures — a large hand emerges from the sand, a boat with an angler looks ready, if not totally seaworthy. Los Angeles Times, "Escapes: How to become one with the universe," 30 Apr. 2020 Meanwhile, detritus was piled high as Bahamians attempted to continue salvaging what was left behind. Washington Post, "Cleanup resumes in Bahamas as Humberto swirls away," 15 Sep. 2019 Hull residents are invited to bring their brooms to the town’s Kenberma business district on March 21 at 9:30 a.m. to help clean the sidewalks of the winter’s detritus. Johanna Seltz,, "Hull residents invited to sweep sidewalks in the fresh air," 11 Mar. 2020 As the lesions proliferate beyond the ability of a neuron's internal machinery to get rid of detritus, this general inflammatory response kicks in and, unfortunately, often hits still healthy cells in the brain. Kenneth S. Kosik, Scientific American, "Five Types of Research, Underexplored until Recently, Could Produce Alzheimer’s Treatments," 20 Apr. 2020 Buried in the detritus: long-outdated technology that could possibly save lives in the fight against the coronavirus in Northeast Iowa. Ann Colwell, CNN, "This Iowa community is rallying together to find medical supplies for local hospitals facing a dire shortage," 2 Apr. 2020 The desk holds one of five jars of her own art detritus, open so that visitors can sift and analyze the stuff. Washington Post, "In the galleries: Cultures, collisions, climate change and French connections," 10 Jan. 2020

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

3 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 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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