Word Confusion: Desert versus Dessert

Posted February 11, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Every time I see desert used when the author obviously means dessert, well, I get dry mouth. And I get that gritty feeling in my teeth.

Worse, that gritty, sandy feeling migrates to cracks and crevices in my body. I just gotta take a shower after “eating” that desert — gets rid of the dry feeling in my mouth and all those clinging sand particles.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Desert Dessert
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Red Rocks Rocky Terrain Desert” by Julien Lavallée is in the public domain, via Visual hunt.

slice of cheesecake with raspberries and blueberries

“Baked Cheesecake with Raspberries and Blueberries” by zingyyellow (originally posted to Flickr as “Baked Cheesecake”) is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Oh yeah, this is my idea of a dessert.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 2;
Noun 1, 2;
Plural: deserts

Verb, intransitive & transitive 3

Past tense or past participle: deserted
Gerund or Present participle: deserting

Plural: desserts
Uninhabited, desolate

A person’s worthiness or entitlement to reward or punishment, usually plural, deserts 1

A dry, barren area of land, typically covered in sand 2

  • A situation or area considered dull or uninteresting

Verb, intransitive:
Military (of a soldier) illegally run away from military service

Verb, transitive:
Abandon a person, cause, or organization in a way considered disloyal or treacherous

  • [Of a number of people] Leave a place, causing it to appear empty
  • [Of a quality or ability] Fail someone, especially at a crucial moment when most needed
Sweet course eaten at the end of a meal

What mom or dad usually threaten to withhold if someone doesn’t behave!

Overgrazing has created desert conditions.

He got his just deserts!

The interior of Iceland is an ice desert.

This place is a cultural desert.

Verb, intransitive:
He deserted his post.

Verb, transitive:
He deserted his wife and daughter and went back to England.

Good weather came after the summer hordes had deserted the beaches.

The lobby of the hotel was virtually deserted.

Her luck deserted her.

I’m having the chocolate cake for dessert!

What would everyone like for dessert?

The dessert menu here is fabulous!

Adjective: desertic, desertlike
Adverb: desertedly
Noun: desertedness, deserter, predeserter
History of the Word:
13th century

1 Middle English from the Old French, deservir, or serve well, but pronounced desserts.

2 Middle English via Old French from late Latin desertum meaning something left waste. A neuter past participle of deserere meaning leave, forsake.

3 Late Middle English from the Old French deserter, which is from late Latin desertare, which is from the Latin desertus meaning left waste.

Mid-16th century from the French as a past participle of desservir, or clear the table. Although, how that became a sweets course…

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

A Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy Before Sunset by ESO/B. Tafreshi under the CC BY 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons, and “Libbey 14034021 – 9-1/8 Oz. Ice Cream Sundae Dish” is courtesy of Zesco.

3 responses to “Word Confusion: Desert versus Dessert

  1. Hey Kd, have you been receiving the latest posts from my blog? I went to a self-hosted site but Im not sure if my wordpress followers are receiving the newer notifications. Please let me know!

    • I don’t think I have. I had some horrible email problems and have been so busy trying to catch up that I haven’t been paying attention to the mail I expect to see. But, now that you mention it…eek!