[dih-trahy-tuh s]


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 formsde·tri·tal, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for detritus

rubble, leavings, deposit, sediment, scree

Examples from the Web for detritus

Contemporary Examples of detritus

Historical Examples of detritus

  • By some unknown convulsion, this detritus had been heaped up.

  • There is detritus enough in Glen Spean, but not where it is wanted.

  • Death is only real for all the detritus of the world, for all the sorrow, for all the injustice, for all the grief.

    The Octopus

    Frank Norris

  • The mouth of the Dranse, hard by, is a dreary collection of detritus.


    Francis Henry Gribble

  • The road was bad, for the whole country was full of detritus.

British Dictionary definitions for detritus



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 Formsdetrital, adjective

Word Origin for detritus

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 Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for detritus

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

detritus in Medicine



n. pl. detritus

Loose matter resulting from the wearing away or disintegration of tissue or other material.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

detritus in Science



Loose fragments, such as sand or gravel, that have been worn away from rock.
Matter produced by the decay or disintegration of an organic substance.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.