de·​bris | \ də-ˈbrē How to pronounce debris (audio) , dā-ˈbrē, ˈdā-ˌbrē, British usually ˈde-(ˌ)brē \
plural debris\ də-​ˈbrēz How to pronounce debris (audio) , dā-​ˈbrēz , ˈdā-​ˌbrēz , British usually  ˈde-​(ˌ)brēz \

Essential Meaning of debris

1 : the pieces that are left after something has been destroyed After the earthquake, rescuers began digging through the debris in search of survivors. Everything was covered by dust and debris.
2 : things (such as broken pieces and old objects) that are lying where they fell or that have been left somewhere because they are not wanted The crew cleaned up cigarette butts and other debris. [=trash, rubbish]

Full Definition of debris

1 : 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
2 geology : an accumulation of fragments of rock
3 : something discarded : rubbish picking up debris after the parade

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Examples of debris in a Sentence

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 An army of 1,600 workers and volunteers had removed 250,000 pounds of oily debris from the shoreline by Monday. Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times, 12 Oct. 2021 The mosaic of treated and untreated land at once preserves biodiversity and reduces the amount of natural debris that feeds wildfires. Martin Kuz, The Christian Science Monitor, 8 Oct. 2021 According to Wildcoast, trashbooms have stopped more than 31,000 pounds of plastic debris from entering the Pacific Ocean from the Tijuana River Valley. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Oct. 2021 Many are familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a collection of several large areas of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Robert Rapier, Forbes, 30 Sep. 2021 As the report points out, relatively little of that debris gets handled in an environmentally friendly manner. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 26 Sep. 2021 China’s most recent Long March rocket dominated global headlines just four months ago for a design decision that led to the dropping of space debris that made an uncontrolled re-entry back to Earth that could have struck a populated area. Rebecca Davis, Variety, 10 Sep. 2021 Ryugu likely formed when something collided with a much larger asteroid, breaking off a bunch of rocky debris that later glommed together and headed on a different trajectory. Ramin Skibba, Wired, 10 Sep. 2021 The Cajun Navy’s Facebook page Monday morning advised volunteer boat-owners to report to a nearby Days Inn to assist with water rescues and the chain saw teams working on the removal of road debris. Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2021

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.

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First Known Use of debris

1708, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for debris

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

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Last Updated

15 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Debris.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for debris


de·​bris | \ də-ˈbrē How to pronounce debris (audio) \
plural debris\ -​ˈbrēz \

Kids Definition of debris

: the junk or pieces left from something broken down or destroyed


de·​bris | \ də-ˈbrē, dā-ˈ, ˈdā-ˌ, British usually ˈdeb-(ˌ)rē \
plural debris

Medical Definition of debris

: organic waste from dead or damaged tissue a wound obscured by blood and debrisEmergency Medicine

More from Merriam-Webster on debris

Nglish: Translation of debris for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of debris for Arabic Speakers


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