What does desert mean?

Definitions for desert
ˈdɛz ərtdesert

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word desert.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. desertverb

    arid land with little or no vegetation

  2. abandon, forsake, desolate, desertverb

    leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch

    "The mother deserted her children"

  3. defect, desertverb

    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"

  4. desertverb

    leave behind

    "the students deserted the campus after the end of exam period"

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Desertadjective

    Wild; waste; solitary; uninhabited; uncultivated; untilled.

    Etymology: desertus, Latin.

    I have words
    That would be howl’d out in the desert air,
    Where hearing should not catch them. William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

    He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness. Deutr. xxxii. 10.

    The promises and bargains between two men in a desert island are binding to them, though they are perfectly in a state of nature, in reference to one another. John Locke.

  2. Desertnoun

    A wilderness; solitude; waste country; uninhabited place.

    Etymology: desertum, Latin.

    Be alive again,
    And dare me to the desert with thy sword.
    Of trembling I inhibit; then protest me
    The baby of a girl. William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

    He, looking round on every side, beheld
    A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades. Paradise Reg.

  3. Desertnoun

    The last course; the fruit or sweetmeats with which a feast is concluded. See Dessert.

    Etymology: desertum, Latin.

  4. Desertnoun

    Etymology: desertum, Latin.

    Being of necessity a thing common, it is, through the manifold persuasions, dispositions, and occasions of men, with equal desert both of praise and dispraise, shunned by some, by others desired. Richard Hooker, b. v. s. 46.

    The base o’ th’ mount
    Is rank’d with all deserts, all kind of natures,
    That labour on the bosom of this sphere
    To propagate their states. William Shakespeare, Timon.

    Use every man after his desert, and who shall ’scape whipping? William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

    More to move you,
    Take my deserts to his, and join them both. William Shakespeare, Timon.

    All desert imports an equality between the good conferred and the good deserved, or made due. Robert South, Sermons.

  5. To DESERTverb

    Etymology: deserter, French; desero, Latin.

    I do not remember one man, who heartily wished the passing of that bill, that ever deserted them ’till the kingdom was in a flame. John Dryden, Æn. Dedicat.

    What is it that holds and keeps them in fixed stations and intervals, against an incessant and inherent tendency to desert them? Richard Bentley, Sermons.


  1. Desert

    A desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation occurs and, consequently, living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. The lack of vegetation exposes the unprotected surface of the ground to the processes of denudation. About one-third of the land surface of the world is arid or semi-arid. This includes much of the polar regions where little precipitation occurs and which are sometimes called polar deserts or "cold deserts". Deserts can be classified by the amount of precipitation that falls, by the temperature that prevails, by the causes of desertification or by their geographical location. Deserts are formed by weathering processes as large variations in temperature between day and night put strains on the rocks which consequently break in pieces. Although rain seldom occurs in deserts, there are occasional downpours that can result in flash floods. Rain falling on hot rocks can cause them to shatter and the resulting fragments and rubble strewn over the desert floor are further eroded by the wind. This picks up particles of sand and dust and wafts them aloft in sand or dust storms. Wind-blown sand grains striking any solid object in their path can abrade the surface. Rocks are smoothed down, and the wind sorts sand into uniform deposits. The grains end up as level sheets of sand or are piled high in billowing sand dunes. Other deserts are flat, stony plains where all the fine material has been blown away and the surface consists of a mosaic of smooth stones. These areas are known as desert pavements and little further erosion takes place. Other desert features include rock outcrops, exposed bedrock and clays once deposited by flowing water. Temporary lakes may form and salt pans may be left when waters evaporate. There may be underground sources of water in the form of springs and seepages from aquifers. Where these are found, oases can occur. Plants and animals living in the desert need special adaptations to survive in the harsh environment. Plants tend to be tough and wiry with small or no leaves, water-resistant cuticles and often spines to deter herbivory. Some annual plants germinate, bloom and die in the course of a few weeks after rainfall while other long-lived plants survive for years and have deep root systems able to tap underground moisture. Animals need to keep cool and find enough food and water to survive. Many are nocturnal and stay in the shade or underground during the heat of the day. They tend to be efficient at conserving water, extracting most of their needs from their food and concentrating their urine. Some animals remain in a state of dormancy for long periods, ready to become active again during the rare rainfall. They then reproduce rapidly while conditions are favorable before returning to dormancy. People have struggled to live in deserts and the surrounding semi-arid lands for millennia. Nomads have moved their flocks and herds to wherever grazing is available and oases have provided opportunities for a more settled way of life. The cultivation of semi-arid regions encourages erosion of soil and is one of the causes of increased desertification. Desert farming is possible with the aid of irrigation, and the Imperial Valley in California provides an example of how previously barren land can be made productive by the import of water from an outside source. Many trade routes have been forged across deserts, especially across the Sahara Desert, and traditionally were used by caravans of camels carrying salt, gold, ivory and other goods. Large numbers of slaves were also taken northwards across the Sahara. Some mineral extraction also takes place in deserts, and the uninterrupted sunlight gives potential for the capture of large quantities of solar energy.


  1. desert

    A desert is a barren and arid region that receives very little rainfall, making it difficult for most forms of life to survive. Deserts are typically characterized by extreme temperatures, sandy or rocky landscapes, and limited vegetation. They can be found in various parts of the world and occupy a significant portion of Earth's land surface.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Desertnoun

    that which is deserved; the reward or the punishment justly due; claim to recompense, usually in a good sense; right to reward; merit

  2. Desertnoun

    a deserted or forsaken region; a barren tract incapable of supporting population, as the vast sand plains of Asia and Africa are destitute and vegetation

  3. Desertnoun

    a tract, which may be capable of sustaining a population, but has been left unoccupied and uncultivated; a wilderness; a solitary place

  4. Desertadjective

    of or pertaining to a desert; forsaken; without life or cultivation; unproductive; waste; barren; wild; desolate; solitary; as, they landed on a desert island

  5. Desertverb

    to leave (especially something which one should stay by and support); to leave in the lurch; to abandon; to forsake; -- implying blame, except sometimes when used of localities; as, to desert a friend, a principle, a cause, one's country

  6. Desertverb

    to abandon (the service) without leave; to forsake in violation of duty; to abscond from; as, to desert the army; to desert one's colors

  7. Desertverb

    to abandon a service without leave; to quit military service without permission, before the expiration of one's term; to abscond

  8. Etymology: [F. dsert, L. desertum, from desertus solitary, desert, pp. of deserere to desert; de- + serere to join together. See Series.]


  1. Desert

    A desert is a landscape or region of land that is very dry because of low rainfall amounts, often has little coverage by plants, and in which streams dry up unless they are supplied by water from outside areas. Deserts can also be described as areas where more water is lost by evapotranspiration than falls as precipitation. Desert plants must have special adaptations to survive with this little water. Deserts generally receive less than 250 millimetres of rain each year. Semideserts or steppes are regions which receive between 250 millimetres and 400 to 500 millimetres.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Desert

    de-zėrt′, n. the reward or punishment deserved: claim to reward: merit—adj. Desert′less, without merit. [See Deserve.]

  2. Desert

    de-zėrt′, v.t. to leave: to forsake.—v.i. to run away: to quit a service, as the army, without permission.—ns. Desert′er, one who deserts or quits a service without permission; Deser′tion, act of deserting: state of being deserted: wilful abandonment of a legal or moral duty or obligation. [L. deserĕre, desertumde, neg., and serĕre, to bind.]

  3. Desert

    dez′ėrt, adj. deserted: desolate: uninhabited: uncultivated: a desolate or barren place: a wilderness: a solitude. [O. Fr. desert—L. desertum, deserĕre, to desert, unbind.]

Dictionary of Nautical Terms

  1. desert

    An extensive tract, either absolutely sterile, or having no other vegetation than small patches of grass or shrubs. Many portions of the present deserts seem to be reclaimable.

Military Dictionary and Gazetteer

  1. desert

    To quit a service without permission; to run away; as, to desert from the army; to forsake in violation of duty; as, to desert one’s colors.

Editors Contribution

  1. Desertnoun

    an arid state of the soul--maybe have a look at ts Eliot's poem The Wasteland?

    good question!

    Etymology: don't know.

    Submitted by sambergkenneth on January 7, 2022  

Suggested Resources

  1. Desert

    Desert vs. Dessert -- In this Grammar.com article you will learn the differences between the words Desert and Dessert.

Surnames Frequency by Census Records


    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Desert is ranked #136449 in terms of the most common surnames in America.

    The Desert surname appeared 123 times in the 2010 census and if you were to sample 100,000 people in the United States, approximately 0 would have the surname Desert.

    75.6% or 93 total occurrences were Black.
    21.9% or 27 total occurrences were White.

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Spoken Corpus Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'desert' in Spoken Corpus Frequency: #4789

  2. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'desert' in Nouns Frequency: #1763

  3. Verbs Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'desert' in Verbs Frequency: #1058

How to pronounce desert?

How to say desert in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of desert in Chaldean Numerology is: 5

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of desert in Pythagorean Numerology is: 8

Examples of desert in a Sentence

  1. Uri Geller:

    In my intelligence work I assisted with Operation Desert Storm, helped to locate secret tunnels in North Korea, and used my skills to erase crucial diplomatic discs on their way to Moscow.

  2. Arthur Young:

    Give a man secure possession of a bleak rock and he will turn it into a garden; give him nine years lease of a garden and he will turn it into a desert.

  3. Cristina Bautista:

    If there was no more water here, there would be no water all across Colombia, the whole country would become a desert.

  4. Elmano Silveira:

    My friends from there used to call me all the time. ... Now I'm the one calling them, before the pandemic, we had a big city vibe here. It was really busy. Now it's like a desert.

  5. Mariana Fulger:

    Life got ahead of me. I thought I would hurry up walking through this desert and I would await its arrival!

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for desert

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

Get even more translations for desert »


Find a translation for the desert definition in other languages:

Select another language:

  • - Select -
  • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
  • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
  • Español (Spanish)
  • Esperanto (Esperanto)
  • 日本語 (Japanese)
  • Português (Portuguese)
  • Deutsch (German)
  • العربية (Arabic)
  • Français (French)
  • Русский (Russian)
  • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
  • 한국어 (Korean)
  • עברית (Hebrew)
  • Gaeilge (Irish)
  • Українська (Ukrainian)
  • اردو (Urdu)
  • Magyar (Hungarian)
  • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
  • Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Italiano (Italian)
  • தமிழ் (Tamil)
  • Türkçe (Turkish)
  • తెలుగు (Telugu)
  • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
  • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
  • Čeština (Czech)
  • Polski (Polish)
  • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
  • Românește (Romanian)
  • Nederlands (Dutch)
  • Ελληνικά (Greek)
  • Latinum (Latin)
  • Svenska (Swedish)
  • Dansk (Danish)
  • Suomi (Finnish)
  • فارسی (Persian)
  • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
  • հայերեն (Armenian)
  • Norsk (Norwegian)
  • English (English)

Word of the Day

Would you like us to send you a FREE new word definition delivered to your inbox daily?

Please enter your email address:


Use the citation below to add this definition to your bibliography:


"desert." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/desert>.

Discuss these desert definitions with the community:

1 Comment
  • Hendrik Ehlers
    Hendrik Ehlers
    desert in Afrikaans is: Woestyn.
    LikeReply 27 years ago

Are we missing a good definition for desert? Don't keep it to yourself...

Image or illustration of


Credit »

Free, no signup required:

Add to Chrome

Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

Free, no signup required:

Add to Firefox

Get instant definitions for any word that hits you anywhere on the web!

Browse Definitions.net


Are you a words master?

assist or encourage, usually in some wrongdoing
A fluster
B abet
C lucubrate
D huff

Nearby & related entries:

Alternative searches for desert: