just deserts

Definition of just deserts

formal

  1. :  the punishment that one deserves We all want to see this criminal get his just deserts.

Where does the idiom just deserts come from?

Why do we say that someone has gotten their just deserts? Does this turn of phrase have anything to do with dessert (“a sweet food eaten at the end of a meal”) or desert (“a dry land with few plants and little rainfall”)? In fact, the phrase employs neither of these words. Instead, it uses a completely unrelated word that happens to be pronounced like the word for sweets and spelled like the one for a dry place: desert, meaning “reward or punishment deserved or earned by one’s qualities or acts.” This little-used noun is, as you might have guessed, related to the English verb deserve. It has nothing to do with arid, dry land, or with cookies and ice cream.

Word by Word Definitions

justplay
  1. : archaic variant ofjoust

  1. :  having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason :  reasonable

    :  faithful to an original

    :  conforming to a standard of correctness :  proper

  1. :  exactly, precisely

    :  very recently

    :  by a very small margin :  barely

desertplay deserts
  1. :  arid land with usually sparse vegetation

    :  such land having a very warm climate and receiving less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of sporadic rainfall annually

    :  an area of water apparently devoid of life

  1. :  desolate and sparsely occupied or unoccupied

    :  of or relating to a desert (see 1desert)

    :  forsaken

  1. :  the quality or fact of meriting reward or punishment

    :  excellence, worth

  1. :  to withdraw from or leave usually without intent to return

    :  to leave in the lurch

    :  to abandon (military service) without leave


Seen and Heard

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WORD OF THE DAY

clearly seen through or understood

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