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des·ert 1  (dzrt)
1. A barren or desolate area, especially:
a. A dry, often sandy region of little rainfall, extreme temperatures, and sparse vegetation.
b. A region of permanent cold that is largely or entirely devoid of life.
c. An apparently lifeless area of water.
2. An empty or forsaken place; a wasteland: a cultural desert.
3. Archaic A wild, uncultivated, and uninhabited region.
1. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or inhabiting a desert: desert fauna.
2. Barren and uninhabited; desolate: a desert island.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin dsertum, from neuter past participle of dserere, to desert; see desert3.]

de·sert 2  (d-z?rt)
1. Something that is deserved or merited, especially a punishment. Often used in the plural: They got their just deserts when the scheme was finally uncovered.
2. The state or fact of deserving reward or punishment.

[Middle English, from Old French deserte, from feminine past participle of deservir, to deserve; see deserve.]
Word History: When Shakespeare says in Sonnet 72, Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,/To do more for me than mine own desert, he is using the word desert in the sense of worthiness; deserving, a word perhaps most familiar to us in the plural, meaning something that is deserved, as in the phrase just deserts. This word goes back to the Latin word dservre, to devote oneself to the service of, which in Vulgar Latin came to mean to merit by service. Dservre is made up of d-, meaning thoroughly, and servre, to serve. Knowing this, we can distinguish this desert from desert, a wasteland, and desert, to abandon, both of which go back to Latin dserere, to forsake, leave uninhabited, which is made up of d-, expressing the notion of undoing, and the verb serere, to link together. We can also distinguish all three deserts from dessert, a sweet course at the end of a meal, which is from the French word desservir, to clear the table. Desservir is made up of des-, expressing the notion of reversal, and servir (from Latin servre), to serve, hence, to unserve or to clear the table.

de·sert 3  (d-z?rt)
v. de·sert·ed, de·sert·ing, de·serts
1. To leave empty or alone; abandon.
2. To withdraw from, especially in spite of a responsibility or duty; forsake: deserted her friend in a time of need.
3. To abandon (a military post, for example) in violation of orders or an oath.
To forsake ones duty or post, especially to be absent without leave from the armed forces with no intention of returning.

[French d?serter, from Late Latin dsertre, frequentative of Latin dserere, to abandon : d-, de- + serere, to join; see ser-2 in Indo-European roots.]

de·serter n.

1. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography) a region that is devoid or almost devoid of vegetation, esp because of low rainfall
2. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography) an uncultivated uninhabited region
3. a place which lacks some desirable feature or quality a cultural desert
4. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography) (modifier) of, relating to, or like a desert; infertile or desolate
[from Old French, from Church Latin dēsertum, from Latin dēserere to abandon, literally: to sever ones links with, from de- + serere to bind together]

1. (tr) to leave or abandon (a person, place, etc.) without intending to return, esp in violation of a duty, promise, or obligation
2. (Military) Military to abscond from (a post or duty) with no intention of returning
3. (tr) to fail (someone) in time of need his good humour temporarily deserted him
4. (Law) (tr) Scots law to give up or postpone (a case or charge)
[from French d?serter, from Late Latin dēsertāre, from Latin dēserere to forsake; see desert1]
deserter  n
deserted  adj

1. (often plural) something that is deserved or merited; just reward or punishment
2. the state of deserving a reward or punishment
3. virtue or merit
[from Old French deserte, from deservir to deserve]

desert  (dzrt)
A large, dry, barren region, usually having sandy or rocky soil and little or no vegetation. Water lost to evaporation and transpiration in a desert exceeds the amount of precipitation; most deserts average less than 25 cm (9.75 inches) of precipitation each year, concentrated in short local bursts. Deserts cover about one fifth of the Earths surface, with the principal warm deserts located mainly along the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, where warm, rising equatorial air masses that have already lost most of their moisture descend over the subtropical regions. Cool deserts are located at higher elevations in the temperate regions, often on the lee side of a barrier mountain range where the prevailing winds drop their moisture before crossing the range.
A Closer Look A desert is defined not by temperature but by the sparse amount of water found in a region. An area with an annual rainfall of fewer than 25 centimeters (9.75 inches) generally qualifies as a desert. In spite of the dryness, however, some animals and plants have adapted to desert life and thrive in these harsh environments. While different animals live in different types of deserts, the dominant animals of warm deserts are reptiles, including snakes and lizards, small mammals, such as ground squirrels and mice, and arthropods, such as scorpions and beetles. These animals are usually nocturnal, spending the day resting in the shade of plants or burrowed in the ground, and emerging in the evenings to hunt or eat. Warm-desert plants are mainly ground-hugging shrubs, small wooded trees, and cacti. Plant and animal life is scarcer in the cool desert, where the precipitation falls mainly as snow. Plants are generally scattered mosses and grasses that are able to survive the cold by remaining low to the ground, avoiding the wind, and animal life can include both large and small mammals, such as deer and jackrabbits, as well as a variety of raptors and other birds.

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