der·​e·​lict | \ ˈder-ə-ˌlikt How to pronounce derelict (audio) , ˈde-rə- \

Definition of derelict

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : abandoned especially by the owner or occupant derelict warehouses also : run-down a derelict neighborhood
2 : lacking a sense of duty : negligent derelict in his duty derelict landlords



Definition of derelict (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : something voluntarily abandoned especially : a ship abandoned on the high seas
b geology : a tract of land left dry by receding water
2 : a destitute homeless social misfit : vagrant, bum

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Derelict Has Latin Roots


The Latin verb relinquere left behind a few English derivatives. This word, itself meaning "to leave behind," is the root of our "derelict." Something derelict has been left behind, or at least appears that way. In another sense, someone derelict leaves behind or neglects his or her duties or obligations. Another descendent of "relinquere" is relinquish, meaning "to leave behind, "to give up," or "to release." "Relic" is another example of a word that ultimately comes from "relinquere." "Relics," in the original sense of the term, referred to things treasured for their association with a saint or martyr - that is, objects saints and martyrs had left behind.

Examples of derelict in a Sentence

Adjective The officer was charged with being derelict in his duty. the guards were judged derelict in their duty Noun It was a run-down neighborhood filled with drugs addicts and derelicts. a section of the city that seemed to be frequented mostly by derelicts
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The rusting, derelict industrial buildings had been vacant since 1994, and no private developers showed any interest in taking on the environmental cleanup costs to take down the old hulks. Don Stacom,, 8 Sep. 2021 The neighborhood changed, and by 1973 the building was derelict. Andrew Silow-carroll,, 4 Aug. 2021 Yet the federal government is notoriously derelict in failing to prosecute those who violate those laws in purchasing or attempting to purchase firearms. The Editors, National Review, 24 June 2021 Some rooms were still derelict and some under construction, but absolutely nothing was finished. Elizabeth Mccracken, The Atlantic, 8 Apr. 2021 The story begins with the Yi’s move to a derelict plot of land in the middle of nowhere Arkansas. Zoe Guy, Marie Claire, 25 Apr. 2021 The area originally consisted of a derelict collection of 10 Craftsman bungalows near Venice Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, which the two men cleaned up and used as a hub for like-minded people of all ages interested in exploring creative pursuits. Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times, 21 Apr. 2021 And over the years, while the prospect of a definitive renovation glimmered on the horizon, the structure grew more and more derelict, leaky, and cramped. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 5 Apr. 2021 Per El País, the building had been in derelict condition for years. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Back near the derelict steelworks, John Nelson, 66, described how those who grew up nearby almost inevitably ended up taking the plentiful jobs that were once available. New York Times, 2 Oct. 2021 Beverly Watts-Davis, the chief operating officer of the WestCare Foundation, recalled that Webb once persuaded the National Guard to tear down a derelict nursing home as a military exercise. Caroline Tien, San Antonio Express-News, 30 Sep. 2021 In October, an independent planning inspector will visit the derelict chemical plant on the edge of town where the new mine would be sunk. Max Colchester, WSJ, 28 Sep. 2021 The New Museum performed a similar operation on the Bowery, catching a once-derelict street at a moment of change and then whipping it on to faster, fancier frontiers. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 23 Sep. 2021 She’s greeted by two derelict nuns — one mad, the other angry. Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2021 Side by side, the two projects make a textbook before-and-after comparison, one derelict, the other refurbished. New York Times, 5 Aug. 2021 But it should never be forgotten that CNN’s profit play helped whitewash Andrew Cuomo’s derelict record on Covid-19 and in his own decrepit professional life. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 11 Aug. 2021 To keep inspectors from finding the pieces of loose asbestos, Huerta said, he was told to stuff it through holes in the deck of a derelict barge. Jacques Kelly,, 9 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'derelict.' 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 derelict


1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1670, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for derelict

Adjective and Noun

Latin derelictus, past participle of derelinquere to abandon, from de- + relinquere to leave — more at relinquish

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Time Traveler for derelict

Time Traveler

The first known use of derelict was in 1649

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Last Updated

6 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Derelict.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for derelict



English Language Learners Definition of derelict

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: no longer cared for or used by anyone
: failing to do what should be done : negligent



English Language Learners Definition of derelict (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who has no money, job, home, etc.


der·​e·​lict | \ ˈder-ə-ˌlikt How to pronounce derelict (audio) \

Kids Definition of derelict

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : abandoned by the owner or occupant
2 : in poor condition : run-down a derelict old building
3 : failing to do what should be done They were derelict in their duties.



Kids Definition of derelict (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : something abandoned (as a boat)

More from Merriam-Webster on derelict

Nglish: Translation of derelict for Spanish Speakers


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