November 28, 2011
detritus (noun)
\dih-TRY-tus\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : loose material that results directly from the natural breaking up of rocks2 : a product of disintegration or wearing away
How do you use it?
As an archaeologist, she spent her days combing through the detritus of long-dead civilizations, searching for clues about the downfalls of the once-great worlds.
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What language ultimately gave us "detritus"?

"Detritus" comes to us from the Latin root word "deterere," which means "to wear away." The Latin word "detritus" means "that which is worn away," and it came into English via French. Nowadays, "detritus" is also used to refer to any sort of debris, both literal ("She had to dig through the detritus at the bottom of her purse to find change.") and figurative ("He's still sifting through the emotional detritus from their break-up."). "Detritus" just has one common English cousin: "detriment," meaning "damage" or "a cause of damage."
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