just deserts

Definition of just deserts


  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

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

    :  conforming to a standard of correctness :  proper

    :  faithful to an original

  1. :  exactly, precisely

    :  very recently

    :  by a very small margin :  barely

  1. : archaic variant ofjoust

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

What made you want to look up just deserts? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a trip made at another's expense

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