ˈdräs How to pronounce dross (audio)
metallurgy : the scum or unwanted material that forms on the surface of molten metal
: waste or foreign matter : impurity
: something that is base (see base entry 3 sense 1), trivial, or inferior
There is quite a lot of dross on TV these days.
a talent for turning literary dross into gold
ˈdrä-sē How to pronounce dross (audio)

Did you know?

Dross has been a part of the English language since Anglo-Saxon times. It comes from the Old English word drōs, meaning "dregs," those solid materials that fall to the bottom of a container full of a liquid such as coffee or wine. While dross today is used to refer to anything of low value or quality, its earliest use is technical: dross is a metallurgy term referring to solid scum that forms on the surface of a metal when it is molten or melting—remove the dross to improve the metal. The metallurgical sense of the word is often hinted at in its general use, with dross set in contrast to gold, as when 19th century British poet Christina Rossetti wrote "Besides, those days were golden days, / Whilst these are days of dross."

Examples of dross in a Sentence

There is quite a lot of dross on TV these days. His editor has a talent for turning literary dross into gold.
Recent Examples on the Web Maybe our own era will look better in retrospect, when all the dross is cleared away. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 23 Oct. 2023 Suffice it to say that this book contains both wheat and chaff, both gold and dross. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 9 Oct. 2023 There’s a lot of dross, to be sure, but there’s also so much that’s good. Lacey Rose, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Aug. 2023 Television had at last ditched its (unfair) reputation as mindless dross; the people who sold television at least seemed to understand how limitless the art form could be. Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times, 3 May 2023 But there’s a bit too much dross amid what works — a sign of the times in terms of series orders being bulked out beyond what the story can sustain, and a reminder that, as a writer, Rice was not known for the gift of concision. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 3 Jan. 2023 Biden has turned gold into dross and, amazingly, expects to be rewarded for it. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 15 Oct. 2022 To find something positive amidst much dross — Mamoudou Athie and Dina Shihabi make for able horror leads in this series. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 11 Jan. 2022 Many of the things left at the sorry corner are manifestly ugly or useless, yet it should not be assumed that this always represents the true dross, that all the promising stuff was taken. Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, Harper’s Magazine , 7 Dec. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dross.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English dros, from Old English drōs dregs

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dross was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near dross

Cite this Entry

“Dross.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dross. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


ˈdräs How to pronounce dross (audio)
: the scum that forms on molten metal
: waste or foreign matter

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