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a dry, barren region: Mojave Desert; deserved: received his just desert; abandon: desert a family to pursue selfish desires
Not to be confused with:
dessert – sweet food, often served as the last course of a meal: I’ll have my dessert first.
Abused, Confused, & Misused Words by Mary Embree Copyright © 2007, 2013 by Mary Embree

des·ert 1

1. A barren or desolate area, especially:
a. A dry, often sandy region of little rainfall, extreme temperatures, and sparse vegetation.
b. A region of permanent cold that is largely or entirely devoid of life.
c. An apparently lifeless area of water.
2. An empty or forsaken place; a wasteland: a cultural desert.
3. Archaic A wild and uninhabited region.
1. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or inhabiting a desert: desert fauna.
2. Wild and uninhabited: a desert island.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin dēsertum, from neuter past participle of dēserere, to desert; see desert3.]

de·sert 2

1. often deserts Something that is deserved or merited, especially a punishment: They got their just deserts when the scheme was finally uncovered.
2. The state or fact of deserving reward or punishment.

[Middle English, from Old French deserte, from feminine past participle of deservir, to deserve; see deserve.]
Word History: When Shakespeare says in Sonnet 72, "Unless you would devise some virtuous lie, / To do more for me than mine own desert," he is using the word desert in the sense of "worthiness; merit," a word perhaps most familiar to us in the plural, meaning "something that is deserved," as in the phrase just deserts. This word goes back to the Latin word dēservīre, "to devote oneself to the service of," which in Vulgar Latin came to mean "to merit by service." Dēservīre is made up of dē-, meaning "thoroughly," and servīre, "to serve." Knowing this, we can distinguish this desert from desert, "a wasteland," and desert, "to abandon," both of which go back to Latin dēserere, "to forsake, leave uninhabited," which is made up of dē-, expressing the notion of undoing, and the verb serere, "to link together." We can also distinguish all three deserts from dessert, "a sweet course at the end of a meal," which is from the French word desservir, "to clear the table." Desservir is made up of des-, expressing the notion of reversal, and servir (from Latin servīre), "to serve," hence, "to unserve" or "to clear the table."

de·sert 3

v. de·sert·ed, de·sert·ing, de·serts
1. To leave empty or alone; abandon.
2. To withdraw from, especially in spite of a responsibility or duty; forsake: deserted her friend in a time of need.
3. To abandon (a military post, for example) in violation of orders or an oath.
To forsake one's duty or post, especially to be absent without leave from the armed forces with no intention of returning.

[French déserter, from Late Latin dēsertāre, frequentative of Latin dēserere, to abandon : dē-, de- + serere, to join; see ser- in Indo-European roots.]

de·sert′er n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. (Physical Geography) a region that is devoid or almost devoid of vegetation, esp because of low rainfall
2. (Physical Geography) an uncultivated uninhabited region
3. a place which lacks some desirable feature or quality: a cultural desert.
4. (Physical Geography) (modifier) of, relating to, or like a desert; infertile or desolate
[C13: from Old French, from Church Latin dēsertum, from Latin dēserere to abandon, literally: to sever one's links with, from de- + serere to bind together]


1. (tr) to leave or abandon (a person, place, etc) without intending to return, esp in violation of a duty, promise, or obligation
2. (Military) military to abscond from (a post or duty) with no intention of returning
3. (tr) to fail (someone) in time of need: his good humour temporarily deserted him.
4. (Law) (tr) Scots law to give up or postpone (a case or charge)
[C15: from French déserter, from Late Latin dēsertāre, from Latin dēserere to forsake; see desert1]
deˈserter n
deˈserted adj


1. (often plural) something that is deserved or merited; just reward or punishment
2. the state of deserving a reward or punishment
3. virtue or merit
[C13: from Old French deserte, from deservir to deserve]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈdɛz ərt)

1. an arid, sandy region capable of supporting only a few, usu. specialized, life forms.
2. any area in which few forms of life can exist because of lack of water or absence of soil.
3. any place lacking in something desirable: The town was a cultural desert.
4. of, pertaining to, or like a desert; desolate; barren: a desert island.
5. occurring or living in the desert: a desert palm.
6. designed or suitable for use in the desert.
[1175–1225; < Late Latin dēsertum derivative of dēserere to abandon, forsake =dē- de- + serere to join together (in a line); compare series]
de•ser•tic (dɪˈzɜr tɪk) adj.



1. to leave (a person, place, etc.) without intending to return: He deserted his wife.
2. to run away from (military service) without leave.
3. to fail (someone) at a time of need: None of his friends had deserted him.
4. to forsake or leave one's duty, obligations, etc.
[1470–80; < Middle French déserter < Late Latin dēsertāre, frequentative of Latin dēserere; see desert1]
de•sert′er, n.



1. Often, deserts. reward or punishment that is deserved: to get one's just deserts.
2. the state or fact of deserving reward or punishment.
3. the fact of deserving well; merit; virtue.
[1275–1325; < Old French deserte, derivative of deservir to deserve]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


A dry, barren region, usually having sandy or rocky soil and little or no vegetation. Most deserts receive less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of precipitation each year, concentrated in short bursts. Deserts cover about one fifth of the Earth's surface and are mainly located along the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
Did You Know? Spell it with two s's (dessert) and it's ice cream. Spell it with one s (desert) and it's a place where you'd have trouble finding a glass of water, let alone a scoop of vanilla. A desert is defined by the water you won't find there. There's no official standard, but many people say that any place that gets less than 10 inches of precipitation a year qualifies. Deserts do not have to be hot. Even the Sahara Desert in Africa, famous for heat, can get cold at night. And although many people think of the Sahara as the world's biggest desert, that distinction actually belongs to Antarctica, which is incredibly cold and amazingly dry, receiving the frozen equivalent of less than 2 inches of water per year. In spite of this dryness, some animals and plants thrive in deserts. Each desert is therefore a unique ecosystem, a particular environment that includes organisms interacting with it and with each other.
The American Heritage® Student Science Dictionary, Second Edition. Copyright © 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


 of lapwing: flock of lapwing—Bk. of St. Albans, 1486.
Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. 'desert' as a noun

A desert /'dezət/ is a large area of land where there is very little water or rain, no trees, and very few plants.

They crossed the Sahara Desert.
2. 'desert' as a verb

When people or animals desert /dɪ'zɜːt/ a place, they all leave it.

Poor farmers are deserting their fields and coming here looking for jobs.

If you desert someone, you leave them and no longer help or support them.

All our friends have deserted us.
3. 'dessert'

Dessert /dɪ'zɜːt/ is sweet food served at the end of a meal.

For dessert there was ice cream.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012


Past participle: deserted
Gerund: deserting

I desert
you desert
he/she/it deserts
we desert
you desert
they desert
I deserted
you deserted
he/she/it deserted
we deserted
you deserted
they deserted
Present Continuous
I am deserting
you are deserting
he/she/it is deserting
we are deserting
you are deserting
they are deserting
Present Perfect
I have deserted
you have deserted
he/she/it has deserted
we have deserted
you have deserted
they have deserted
Past Continuous
I was deserting
you were deserting
he/she/it was deserting
we were deserting
you were deserting
they were deserting
Past Perfect
I had deserted
you had deserted
he/she/it had deserted
we had deserted
you had deserted
they had deserted
I will desert
you will desert
he/she/it will desert
we will desert
you will desert
they will desert
Future Perfect
I will have deserted
you will have deserted
he/she/it will have deserted
we will have deserted
you will have deserted
they will have deserted
Future Continuous
I will be deserting
you will be deserting
he/she/it will be deserting
we will be deserting
you will be deserting
they will be deserting
Present Perfect Continuous
I have been deserting
you have been deserting
he/she/it has been deserting
we have been deserting
you have been deserting
they have been deserting
Future Perfect Continuous
I will have been deserting
you will have been deserting
he/she/it will have been deserting
we will have been deserting
you will have been deserting
they will have been deserting
Past Perfect Continuous
I had been deserting
you had been deserting
he/she/it had been deserting
we had been deserting
you had been deserting
they had been deserting
I would desert
you would desert
he/she/it would desert
we would desert
you would desert
they would desert
Past Conditional
I would have deserted
you would have deserted
he/she/it would have deserted
we would have deserted
you would have deserted
they would have deserted
Collins English Verb Tables © HarperCollins Publishers 2011
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.desert - arid land with little or no vegetationdesert - arid land with little or no vegetation
biome - a major biotic community characterized by the dominant forms of plant life and the prevailing climate
oasis - a fertile tract in a desert (where the water table approaches the surface)
Verb1.desert - leave someone who needs or counts on youdesert - leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch; "The mother deserted her children"
leave - go and leave behind, either intentionally or by neglect or forgetfulness; "She left a mess when she moved out"; "His good luck finally left him"; "her husband left her after 20 years of marriage"; "she wept thinking she had been left behind"
expose - abandon by leaving out in the open air; "The infant was exposed by the teenage mother"; "After Christmas, many pets get abandoned"
walk out - leave suddenly, often as an expression of disapproval; "She walked out on her husband and children"
ditch - forsake; "ditch a lover"
maroon, strand - leave stranded or isolated with little hope of rescue; "the travellers were marooned"
2.desert - desert (a cause, a country or an army), often in order to join the opposing cause, country, or army; "If soldiers deserted Hitler's army, they were shot"
flee, take flight, fly - run away quickly; "He threw down his gun and fled"
rat - desert one's party or group of friends, for example, for one's personal advantage
3.desert - leave behind; "the students deserted the campus after the end of exam period"
go forth, leave, go away - go away from a place; "At what time does your train leave?"; "She didn't leave until midnight"; "The ship leaves at midnight"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


1. wilderness, waste, wilds, wasteland, dust bowl The vehicles have been modified to suit conditions in the desert.
1. barren, dry, waste, wild, empty, bare, lonely, solitary, desolate, arid, unproductive, infertile, uninhabited, uncultivated, unfruitful, untilled the desert wastes of Mexico


Arabian, Atacama, Dasht-i-Lut or Dasht-e-Lut, Death Valley, Gibson, Gobi, Great Sandy, Great Victoria, Kalahari, Kara Kum, Kyzyl Kum, Libyan, Mohave or Mojave, Nubian, Rub'al Khali, Sahara, Taklimakan Shama, Thar


1. abandon, leave, give up, quit (informal), withdraw from, move out of, relinquish, renounce, vacate, forsake, go away from, leave empty, relinquish possession of Poor farmers are deserting their fields and looking for jobs.
2. leave, abandon, dump (informal), strand, ditch (informal), betray, maroon, walk out on (informal), forsake, jilt, run out on (informal), throw over, leave stranded, leave high and dry, leave (someone) in the lurch Her husband deserted her years ago.
leave maintain, look after, sustain, take care of, provide for, succour, be a source of strength to
3. abscond, flee, defect, decamp, go AWOL (informal), go absent without leave, go over the hill (Military slang), take French leave He deserted from the army last month.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002

desert 1

A tract of unproductive land:
badlands, barren (often used in plural), waste, wasteland, wilderness.

desert 2

Something justly deserved.Often used in plural:
comeuppance, due, guerdon, recompense, reward, wage (often used in plural).
Informal: lump (used in plural).
Idioms: what is coming to one, what one has coming.

desert 3

1. To give up or leave without intending to return or claim again:
2. To abandon one's cause or party usually to join another:
Slang: rat.
Idioms: change sides, turn one's coat.
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
صَحْراءصَحْرَاءيَهْجُر، يَتْرُكيَهْرُب
eyðimörkeyîimörkgerast liîhlaupiyfirgefa, fara frá
çölfirar etmekterk etmek
sa mạc


1 [ˈdezət]
A. Ndesierto m
B. CPD [climate, region] → desértico; [tribe, people] → del desierto
desert boots NPLbotines mpl de ante
desert island Nisla f desierta
desert rat N (Mil) → rata f del desierto


2 [dɪˈzɜːt]
A. VT (Mil, Jur etc) → desertar de; [+ person] → abandonar
his courage deserted himsu valor le abandonó or se esfumó
B. VI (Mil) → desertar (from, to de a)
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


(= arid land) → désert m
(fig) (= grim place) → désert m
[dɪˈzɜːrt] vb
(= leave) [+ place] → déserter, abandonner
(= abandon) [+ wife, family] → abandonner
to be deserted by sb [+ husband, supporter] → être abandonné(e) par qn
vi [soldier] → déserter
to desert from the army → déserter l'arméedesert boot [ˈdɛzərtbuːt] nchaussure f montante (en daim et à lacets)
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


n (lit, fig)Wüste f
adj attrWüsten-; desert landscapeWüstenlandschaft f; desert warfareWüstenkrieg m


vt (= leave)verlassen; (= abandon) person, cause, partyim Stich lassen; by the time the police arrived the place was desertedals die Polizei eintraf, war niemand mehr da; in winter the place is desertedim Winter ist der Ort verlassen; to desert the armyvon der Armee desertieren
vi (Mil, fig) → desertieren, Fahnenflucht begehen; to desert from the armyvon der Armee desertieren; to desert to the rebelszu den Rebellen überlaufen
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


1 [ˈdɛzət]
1. ndeserto
2. adj (climate, region) → desertico/a


2 [dɪˈzɜːt]
1. vtabbandonare, lasciare
his courage deserted him → il coraggio l'ha abbandonato
2. vi (Mil) to desert (from)disertare (da)
to desert (to) → passare (a)
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(diˈzəːt) verb
1. to go away from and leave without help etc; to leave or abandon. Why did you desert us?
2. to run away, usually from the army. He was shot for trying to desert.
deˈserted adjective
1. with no people etc. The streets are completely deserted.
2. abandoned. his deserted wife and children.
deˈserter noun
a man who deserts from the army etc.
deˈsertion (-ʃən) noun
(an) act of deserting.


(ˈdezət) noun
an area of barren country, usually hot, dry and sandy, where there is very little rain. Parts of the country are like a desert; (also adjective) desert plants.

the Sahara desert (not dessert).
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


صَحْرَاء poušť ørken Wüste έρημος desierto autiomaa désert pustinja deserto 砂漠 사막 woestijn ørken pustynia deserto пустыня öken ทะเลทราย çöl sa mạc 沙漠
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009


n. desierto, yermo, páramo.
English-Spanish Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012
References in classic literature ?
To the left lay the vast desert. This spot appears to be the outpost of the fertile country, and it would be difficult to say to what natural causes such an abrupt change in the character of the soil is due.
Forgive me an old after-dinner song, which I once composed amongst daughters of the desert:--
"Because there is a deadly desert all around that fairy country, which no one is able to cross.
Walking beyond the line of trees they saw before them a fearful, dismal desert, everywhere gray sand.
Then the march was resumed toward the desert. When they had come out of the mountains they turned toward the south, and about daylight came to the spot where their horses stood in care of two of their number.
But Jacinto would not let them, making them desert. Tolpec went away with the others, but because of what Tom had done he planned to come back at the first chance and be our guide.
About three hours after, when we were entered upon a desert of about fifteen or sixteen miles over, we knew by a cloud of dust they raised, that the enemy was at hand, and presently they came on upon the spur.
The Wind dies away.--The Vicinity of the Desert.--The Mistake in the Water-Supply.--The Nights of the Equator.--Dr.
Westward the fertile Land of Ev suddenly ended a little way from the palace, and the girl could see miles and miles of sandy desert that stretched further than her eyes could reach.
"My name," replied the Woman, "is Truth; and I live in the desert in order to be near my worshippers when they are driven from among their fellows.
-Speculations on What May Be the Future Population.- Apprehended Dangers.-A Plot to Desert.-Rose the Interpreter.- His Sinister Character- Departure From the Arickara Village.
Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua's miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to men, is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature that is pleasant to the eye.