de·​bris də-ˈbrē How to pronounce debris (audio)
 British usually  ˈde-(ˌ)brē
plural debris də-ˈbrēz How to pronounce debris (audio)
 British usually  ˈde-(ˌ)brēz
: the remains of something broken down or destroyed
digging through the storm's debris in search of survivors
sifted through the debris of her broken marriage
geology : an accumulation of fragments of rock
: something discarded : rubbish
picking up debris after the parade

Example Sentences

After the earthquake, rescuers began digging through the debris in search of survivors. Everything was covered by dust and debris.
Recent Examples on the Web The search for him, on and off since then, has been hampered by brutal weather conditions that have battered California and left behind piles of mud and debris that search teams have had to sift through. Christina Maxouris, CNN, 13 Jan. 2023 More atmospheric rivers are predicted in the coming days, raising fears of flash floods across California—and of catastrophic mud and debris flows where recent wildfires have created 21 burn scars around the state. Robin Meadows, Scientific American, 11 Jan. 2023 Nearby in Studio City, municipal workers with shovels and picks attempted to clear debris and mud at least 3 feet high from the intersection of Wrightwood Lane and Skyhill Drive. Los Angeles Times, 10 Jan. 2023 Areas hit by wildfires in recent years faced the possibility of mud and debris sliding off hillsides that have yet to fully recover their protective layer of vegetation. Julius Lasin, USA TODAY, 10 Jan. 2023 Another small firm is perfecting technology that can clear debris in space without a human crew’s help. Frank Slazer, Fortune, 13 Dec. 2022 Lee County, where residents are still struggling to clear debris from the storm, offers the strongest evidence of Ian’s impact: 26 of the county’s 28 cases this year occurred in the weeks since the late September storm swept in. Frances Stead Sellers And Sabrina Malhi, Anchorage Daily News, 19 Oct. 2022 Another airstrike devastated the Zaporizhzhia area early Monday, according to the regional governor, as rescuers worked to clear the debris from an earlier strike. Nick Parker, Washington Post, 10 Oct. 2022 Jon Parrish was starting to clear debris outside of his sea green house at 240 Curlew St. a block over. Angie Dimichele, Sun Sentinel, 1 Oct. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'debris.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


French débris, from Middle French, from debriser to break to pieces, from Old French debrisier, from de- + brisier to break, of Celtic origin; akin to Old Irish brisid he breaks; perhaps akin to Latin fricare to rub — more at friction

First Known Use

1708, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of debris was in 1708

Dictionary Entries Near debris

Cite this Entry

“Debris.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​bris də-ˈbrē How to pronounce debris (audio)
plural debris -ˈbrēz How to pronounce debris (audio)
: the remains of something broken down or destroyed : ruins
: an accumulation of fragments of rock
: something discarded : rubbish

Medical Definition


də-ˈbrē, dā-ˈ, ˈdā-ˌ, British usually ˈdeb-(ˌ)rē
plural debris
: organic waste from dead or damaged tissue
a wound obscured by blood and debrisEmergency Medicine

More from Merriam-Webster on debris

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