detritus

noun

de·​tri·​tus di-ˈtrī-təs How to pronounce detritus (audio)
plural detritus di-ˈtrī-təs How to pronounce detritus (audio)
-ˈtrī-ˌtüs
1
geology : loose material (such as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration
2
a
: a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris
b
: miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends
still picking up detritus from the block party
… sifting through the detritus of his childhood … Michael Tomasky
detrital adjective

Did you know?

If you use detritus in speech, remember to stress the second syllable, as you do in the words arthritis and bronchitis. Once you've mastered its meaning and pronunciation, you'll find that detritus is a term—originally a geology term—that can be applied in many situations. After the first hard freeze of fall, gardens are littered with the detritus of the summer's plants and produce: stalks, leaves, vines, and maybe even an abandoned hand trowel. As a flood-swollen river retreats to its banks, it leaves detritus—debris gathered by the raging waters—in its wake. The detritus of civilization may include junkyards and abandoned buildings; mental detritus may include all kinds of useless trivia.

Did you know?

How Do You Pronounce detritus?

After the first hard freeze of fall, gardens are sadly littered with the detritus of the summer's plants and produce: stalks, leaves, vines, rotted vegetables, and maybe even a hand trowel left behind. As the flooding Mississippi River retreats back to its ordinary course, it leaves detritus behind in its wake, debris gathered from everywhere by the raging waters. The detritus of civilization may include junkyards and abandoned buildings; mental detritus may include all kinds of useless trivia. Notice how this word is pronounced; for some reason, people often try to accent the first syllable rather than the second.

Example Sentences

the detritus of ancient civilizations As he packed, he sifted through the detritus of a failed relationship.
Recent Examples on the Web Sorting through the detritus of Cazes' private life could seem almost voyeuristic at times, Sanchez admits. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, 8 Nov. 2022 And despite the fact that many of us might consider this industry old-fashioned and out-of-date, research shows that travelers, and millennials in particular, are once again turning to these specialists to help plow through TripAdvisor detritus. Outside Online, 8 May 2019 Our tester used their Black+Decker washer with a detergent infusion to blast bugs from the grill of their car and found that the power washer stripped away all mess and detritus. Gabriel Morgan, Better Homes & Gardens, 10 Nov. 2022 Each work uses the material vernacular of the river and its detritus to create a third space that is both foreign and familiar. Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, 19 Aug. 2022 The corn cave, which is no taller or roomier than a modest corner office, likely served as a storeroom or shelter for nomadic peoples, who left behind bones and plant detritus as far back as 10,000 years ago. Sarah Laskow, The Atlantic, 1 Oct. 2022 In the 1990s, Tillmans took photographs of friends and windowsills, of hairy armpits, boring architecture, ecstatic dance parties and the detritus left over in the morning. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2022 Biden's motorcade wound along a creek with banks strewn with flood detritus. Laura L. Davis, USA TODAY, 8 Aug. 2022 Some artists who returned after the party angrily dismissed the idea that their detritus was art, Afisina said. New York Times, 9 June 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

French détritus, from Latin detritus, past participle of deterere — see detriment

First Known Use

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of detritus was in 1802

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Dictionary Entries Near detritus

Cite this Entry

“Detritus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detritus. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

detritus

noun

de·​tri·​tus di-ˈtrīt-əs How to pronounce detritus (audio)
plural detritus
-ˈtrīt-əs,
-ˈtrī-tüs
1
: loose material that results directly from the natural breaking up of rocks
2
: a product of disintegration or wearing away

Medical Definition

detritus

noun

de·​tri·​tus di-ˈtrīt-əs How to pronounce detritus (audio)
: loose material resulting from disintegration (as of tissue)

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