top: Sahara desert erg
bottom: Antarctic desert
Ross Island, Antarcticadesert1
des·ert 1 (dĕz′ərt)
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, uncultivated, and uninhabited region.
1. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or inhabiting a desert: desert fauna.
2. Barren and uninhabited; desolate: 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 (dĭ-zûrt′)
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 (dĭ-zûrt′)
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.
, from Late Latin dēsertāre
, frequentative of Latin dēserere
, to abandon
, to join
; see ser-
in Indo-European roots
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]
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]
des•ert1 (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. adj.
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. v.i.
4. to forsake or leave one's duty, obligations, etc.
[1470–80; < Middle French déserter
< Late Latin dēsertāre,
frequentative of Latin dēserere;
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
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.