Reserved-looking businessmen were seated together for dinner. The environmentalist remarked that the Earth would soon become a desert if freshwater resources weren’t conserved. Amoral businessmen sitting next to him complained that such a topic was ruining their mood for dessert.

Desert and dessert are two of the trickiest homophones you will come across. Even though they differ only by a single letter ‘s’ they mean completely different hence placing them in each other’s place by mistake will make your sentences completely incorrect. The most common meaning of desert is a noun that refers to a place that has an excessively dry terrain with extremely scarce greenery. As a verb it means to abandon. Desert also has a very rare and peculiar usage where it refers to something that someone deserves. Simultaneously, its other homophone ‘dessert’ is used as a noun and refers to a sweet dish that is served after the main course. If you want to learn these words in depth read the following article. There’s a helpful tip at the end of the article to memorize each word’s meaning easily.

Desert vs dessert – definitions, uses, and example sentences

Definition of desert

‘Desert’ is pronounced as either ‘dez-urt’, if used as a noun, or ‘diz-zurt’, if used as a verb. The word ‘desert’ can serve in the capacity of multiple parts of speech, each with multiple meanings. This diversity in use and meaning can be attributed to this word’s origin. ‘Desert’ is derived from the Latin ‘desertum’, meaning ‘an abandoned location’.

As a noun, a desert can be defined as a geographical region characterized by an arid atmosphere, low rainfall, and barren, sandy terrain. Derivatively, an abandoned or desolate location or circumstance can figuratively be called a ‘desert’. Exceptionally, ‘desert’ can also refer to something that is deserved, either as a punition or prize. For instance, a hero’s victory or a villain’s tragic death can be their respective ‘deserts’. As a verb, ‘to desert’ means to abandon someone or something, or to leave one’s duty or post in a military context. Similarly, an abandoned or evacuated place can be qualified as a ‘desert’ place, with the desert being used as an adjective.

Synonyms of this word include ‘abandon’ in the verb form and ‘desolate’ in the adjective form.

Example sentences of desert

  • As a rough estimate, about one-third of the entire landmass of the Earth is desert.

In the first sentence, ‘desert’ is used as a noun in the sense of a geographical region with specific features of dry terrain and scanty vegetation.

  • The concept of karma dictates that people will always get their just deserts ultimately, with or without delay.

Here, ‘desert’ is used as a noun in the sense of something that is merited or deserved by someone based on what they did. It is an archetype of the Hindi word ‘karma’.

  • As the army faced inevitable defeat at the hands of the aggressor, many of the troops were forced to lay down their weapons and desert their posts.

In the final sentence, the word ‘desert’ is used as a verb to refer to the leaving or abandoning of one’s duty and post in a military context.

Definition of dessert

‘Dessert’ is pronounced ‘diz-zurt’; the same way the verb form of ‘desert’ is pronounced. It is a noun and the meaning of this word is closely related to its linguistic ancestry. ‘Dessert’ can be traced back to the French verb ‘desservir’, meaning ‘to empty or clear the table’. A ‘dessert’ is a course of a meal which is usually sweet and is served after the main meal has been consumed and the table has been cleared. Traditionally, desserts consist of confectionaries, baked goods, and fruits but vary across cultures. Most desserts, however, are generally sweet. Synonyms of the word ‘dessert’ include ‘afters’ and ‘sweet’.

Example sentences of dessert

  • According to some people, ice cream and flavored yogurt are one of the most ancient and globally popular desserts of all time.

In the first sentence, traditionally milk-based sweet foods such as ice cream and yoghurt are characterized as one of the most widely eaten desserts. This is because they are enjoyed after a meal as a cheap delicacy.

  • Despite being a chronic diabetic, my father can never sit up from the dining table without having his dessert.

Here, the phrase ‘his dessert’ signifies that for some people, only certain items constitute ‘dessert’ based on their taste and tradition. The sentence elaborates how the speaker’s father never leaves the table without having the dessert of his choice even though he has severe diabetes. Obviously, the speaker’s father is careless about his health and we do not recommend such actions to anyone.

  • Some scientists claim that having a few squares of dark chocolate for dessert is actually beneficial for digestion and overall health.

In the last sentence, based on some facts, dark chocolate is referred to as a healthy dessert by some scientists.


In conclusion, ‘deserts’ have to do with geography and ‘desserts’ refer to sweets. The verb form of ‘desert’ is a homophone of ‘dessert’, whereas the noun form of the former is pronounced differently. ‘Desert’ can act as a noun, verb, and adjective depending on the context whereas ‘dessert’ can only be used as a noun. Remember the single ‘s’ of ‘desert’ for ‘sandy’ as deserts are sandy. Remember the double ‘ss’ of ‘dessert’ for ‘sweet stuff’.