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[dih-trahy-tuh s] /dɪˈtraɪ təs/
rock in small particles or other material worn or broken away from a mass, as by the action of water or glacial ice.
any disintegrated material; debris.
Origin of detritus
1785-95; < French détritus < Latin: a rubbing away, equivalent to dētrī-, variant stem of dēterere to wear down, rub off (de- de- + terere to rub) + -tus suffix of v. action
Related forms
detrital, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for detrital


a loose mass of stones, silt, etc, worn away from rocks
an accumulation of disintegrated material or debris
the organic debris formed from the decay of organisms
Derived Forms
detrital, adjective
Word Origin
C18: from French détritus, from Latin dētrītus a rubbing away; see detriment
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for detrital



1795, "process of erosion," from Latin detritus "a wearing away," from detri-, stem of detere "wear away" (see detriment). Geological sense of "matter produced by erosion" is 1802, probably from French detritus; incorrect, in any case.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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detrital in Medicine

detritus de·tri·tus (dĭ-trī'təs)
n. pl. detritus
Loose matter resulting from the wearing away or disintegration of a tissue or substance.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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detrital in Science
  1. Loose fragments, such as sand or gravel, that have been worn away from rock.

  2. Matter produced by the decay or disintegration of an organic substance.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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