A single letter can make a very big difference, and this is exactly the case with desert vs. dessert. With only a single s added to the word, its meaning changes completely. And, because a desert and a dessert have absolutely nothing in common, using one word when you mean the other will create a lot of confusion for your readers. To avoid such inconveniences, be sure to read on: you’ll find out what’s the difference between these two words, and also learn some tricks that will help it stay in your mind.
Desert vs. Dessert: What’s the Difference?
A DESERT is either a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to a dry area with very little precipitation and very few animals and plants. As a verb, it means “to abandon”. In contrast, a DESSERT is the last course of the meal usually consists of a beverage and of something sweet.
- The desert is so arid that nothing can grow there.
- The Sahara desert is a natural barrier between North and Central Africa.
- I thought we’d have strawberries and cream for dessert.
- There’s nothing like a luxurious dessert to give a menu a final flourish.
Defining the Terms
In order to clarify the distinction between ‘desert’ and ‘dessert,’ let’s break down the characteristics of each term.
- Geographic Formation: Deserts are vast, dry areas where rainfall is scarce, often resulting in barren landscapes.
- Climate: They typically feature extreme temperatures, with hot days and cold nights.
- Culinary Category: Desserts are sweet courses that conclude a meal, varying widely in preparation and flavor.
- Ingredients: Common ingredients may include sugar, flour, eggs, and butter, giving them a rich taste and texture.
When to Use Desert vs. Dessert
Desert, both as a noun and a verb, comes from Latin, though from two different forms of the same word: the verb comes from desertus, while the noun comes from desertum. Depending on its part of speech, this word is also pronounced differently. For instance, the verb is pronounced with a long e, while the noun is pronounced with a short e.
Here are some examples of how you can use desert in a sentence:
- A true friend will never desert you when you need a helping hand.
- Many people say that Sahara is the largest desert in the world, but they forget that Antarctica is considered a desert as well.
- A xerocole is one of the few animals that managed to adapt to living in the desert.
- The sailor has spent three months on a deserted island after the shipwreck.
On the other hand, dessert came to the English language from French. There, it was created some time in the middle of the 16th century from des that meant “last course” and servir that meant “to serve”. Just by looking at the etymology of this word, it’s clear to see why it has two S’s.
How can you use it in a sentence? Here are a couple of examples:
- Cheesecake is my favorite type of dessert.
- This restaurant’s dessert menu offers an impressive variety of cakes.
One of the ways to remember which of the words is spelled with one S and which with two is to keep in mind their origins, but it isn’t the only one. There are some other things that are more fun that you can try.
For instance, a desert is full of sand, and both of these words have only one S. But a great and delicious example of a dessert is a strawberry shortcake, and this phrase has two S’s. Just picture this sweet cake with strawberries on top the next time you find yourself pausing in the middle of your writing, trying to remember which word you should use, and your dilemma will be solved in seconds.
One more trick is to think that, if you spell the word desserts backward, you will get stressed. And when you’re stressed, desserts are what you are very likely to turn to, and they are very likely to make you feel better.
No matter which method you choose, the only important thing is that you actually remember the difference. You don’t want your readers to wonder why the characters of your novel are walking around a dessert, or to think that they decided to get a desert after dinner. Of course, they will understand what you were trying to say, but it’s best not to keep your readers guessing and give them all the correct information from the very beginning.
Examples in Different Contexts
Examples of “Desert”
- The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world.
- They had to cross the desert to reach the nearest town.
- The soldiers were warned that to desert their posts would be considered treason.
- After the oasis, there was nothing but desert for miles around.
Examples of “Dessert”
- For dessert, we had apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
- She always leaves room for dessert.
- The restaurant is known for its delicious chocolate desserts.
- What kind of dessert should we serve at the party?
Determine if the usage of “desert” or “dessert” is correct.
- The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world. (True/False)
- For desert, she had a slice of chocolate cake. (True/False)
- He deserted his post when he realized the danger. (True/False)
- I always have room for dessert, especially if it’s pie! (True/False)
- The troops were ordered not to dessert their duties. (True/False)
- Sand dunes are a common feature in the desert. (True/False)
- After dinner, we all enjoyed a delicious homemade dessert. (True/False)
- It’s not uncommon for people to desert a sinking ship. (True/False)
- She has a recipe for a great desert that includes layers of cookies and cream. (True/False)
- Many species have adapted to survive in the harsh conditions of the desert. (True/False)
- False (Correct usage: “dessert”)
- False (Correct usage: “desert”)
- False (Correct usage: “dessert”)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between ‘desert’ and ‘dessert’?
Desert (pronounced dez-ert) refers to a barren area of land where little precipitation occurs, and living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. Dessert (pronounced dih-zert), on the other hand, is a sweet course usually served at the end of a meal.
How can we remember the spelling difference between ‘desert’ and ‘dessert’?
A helpful tip is to associate the extra “s” in dessert with the word “sweet,” which also has two “s”s, and is something we often look forward to, much like the sweet course itself.
Is it ‘just deserts’ or ‘just desserts’?
The correct phrase is “just deserts,” meaning receiving what one deserves, which is confusing because it’s pronounced like dessert. The word “deserts” in this context comes from the Old French word deservir, meaning to deserve.
Can desert and dessert be used as verbs?
Yes. To desert means to abandon or leave without permission. There is no verb form of dessert, as it specifically refers to a sweet course of a meal.
|Part of Speech
|A barren area of land or to abandon
|One “s” as in sandy
|A sweet course usually served at the end of a meal
|Two “s”s as in sweet
We use these tips and facts ourselves to avoid common mistakes when writing or speaking about these two easily confused words.
Last Updated on December 6, 2023
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