Definition of detritus in US English:



  • 1Waste or debris of any kind.

    ‘streets filled with rubble and detritus’
    • ‘The debris and detritus from the sites that were destroyed have been either tainted or sterilized.’
    • ‘There are some glorious examples in the east of trendy, stylish, and well upholstered bars, cafes, shops selling pop cultural detritus and the like in old decaying buildings in the east.’
    • ‘You waste too much time listening to that sonic detritus.’
    • ‘It records that the lineside across much of the network is ‘currently disfigured not only by general litter and waste but by detritus of specific railway origin’.’
    • ‘Coffee is regularly contaminated with unappetising detritus ranging from floor sweepings and twigs to poisonous, mouldy coffee beans.’
    • ‘Now the rubble looked like any other industrial detritus, though the surrounding buildings definitely looked like victims of a bombing.’
    • ‘It's still subconscious, cultural detritus, sure, but it's rock music first.’
    • ‘When Esther (de Van) stumbles in the backyard of a party it's not until later that night she realizes some piece of garden detritus gashed a nasty chunk out of her leg.’
    • ‘Goats, oxen and others wandered listlessly amongst the scattered waste and detritus.’
    • ‘Do you enjoy ‘theme restaurants,’ especially if the theme is indeterminate and mainly involves a glut of random pop cultural detritus hanging from the walls?’
    • ‘The growth of these trees is a metaphor for life emerging from the discarded waste, the detritus, the dumpsters of the city.’
    • ‘We filled 13 large black bin bags with the varied detritus of irresponsible litter-bugs.’
    • ‘The corridor opened into a larger room occupied by a number of wheeled dumpsters; the floor was covered with scattered refuse and detritus.’
    • ‘He photographed cultural detritus of all sorts, and, by a perfectly natural transubstantiation, turned all he photographed into antiques.’
    • ‘Everywhere she turned was destruction, debris and detritus, scattered and heaped around.’
    • ‘Perhaps those pupils who carried out the survey should have spent more time on the reasons why there is so much litter and detritus in the area and how it got there, rather than merely observing where was clean and tidy and where was not.’
    • ‘The accumulation of linguistic relics is not just so much cultural detritus.’
    • ‘Among the general detritus and debris, half-finished homework, mugs of undrunk tea, schoolbooks, and bits of model aircraft and bizarre gadgets lay in untended heaps.’
    • ‘Like Byron, Douglas is well aware that the history of engaged music in whatever form is littered with detritus that was neither good propaganda nor good art.’
    • ‘‘Hip-Hop Nation’ offers up the ordinary detritus of commercialized popular culture like precious remnants from a lost civilization.’
    debris, waste, waste matter, discarded matter, refuse, rubbish, litter, scrap, flotsam and jetsam, lumber, rubble, wreckage
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Gravel, sand, silt, or other material produced by erosion.
      • ‘It is thus unlikely that the bulk of the Carboniferous detritus could have been derived by recycling of preexisting Silurian sandstones.’
      • ‘They will be referred to as the high-MgO group, and apparently comprise a large amount of detritus from mafic sources.’
      • ‘The clean up of rubbish and river detritus took place between 12 pm and 2.30 pm.’
      • ‘This range of shapes is consistent with the sediment being a mixture of approximately equal amounts of detritus from distal and proximal sources.’
      • ‘Hutchison & Oliver contended that this metamorphic detritus was derived from the Grampian Terrane based upon geochemical characterization of associated Barrovian zone garnets.’
      • ‘These tectonothermal events occurred in the source region before accumulation of the siliciclastic detritus.’
      • ‘The majority of the Manx Group comprises mature cratonic detritus typical of a passive margin.’
      • ‘The zircon data clearly lead to the conclusion that a Proterozoic terrane is the main detritus source because of the preponderance of grains from this age.’
      • ‘This transition coincides with an upsection increase in megaturbidite beds and increasing abundance of trace amounts of mafic igneous detritus.’
      • ‘Indeed, Garzanti & Van Haver also observed that most of post-Eocene sediments were made of detritus from granitoid rocks.’
      • ‘This may reflect drowning of the source of carbonate and terrigenous clastic detritus, and/or retreat of a sediment dispersal system.’
      • ‘Alluvial basins act as direct sources for turbidite basins when contemporaneous shallow marine shelves are by-passed and detritus is fed along submarine canyons that erode back into alluvial basins or coastal plains.’
      • ‘The supply of detritus from a continental interior with little incorporation of volcanic material into the basin suggests that Eastern Avalonia remained attached to Gondwana throughout deposition of the Manx Group.’
      • ‘When the rivers are a turmoil of silt and detritus flushed down the system, light levels are low enough for the zander to feel at home on even quite bright days.’
      • ‘Eluvium is the geological term for detritus from weathering rock (soil, dust and rock particles are broken down and redeposited by the wind).’
      • ‘The reappearance of feldspar in the detritus probably indicates erosion of a less mature source area.’
      • ‘In Hertfordshire and East Anglia, gravels that are in a similar setting to the Hanborough Terrace contain up to 50% Mesozoic detritus at some localities.’
      • ‘Chang proposed that a triple junction developed in the Songpan-Ganzi Terrane during the Permian and detritus from the Dabie-Sulu belt and adjacent areas filled the new oceanic basin.’
      • ‘The fact that these rocks were not supplying detritus to the sedimentary basin is consistent with the geological observation that they always appear covered by the younger deposits, with little or no discontinuity until the Devonian.’
      • ‘Therefore none of the mafic sheets supplied detritus to the sedimentary environment.’
    2. 1.2 Organic matter produced by the decomposition of organisms.
      • ‘This Monterey Canyon also provides a well of cold, deep water, rich in nutrients that accumulate from the detritus of organisms above.’
      • ‘The council suggested two breaks be created in the breakwaters enclosing the harbour to assist in the flushing out of sediment or organic detritus.’
      • ‘This extant gastropod, like its Pennsylvanian relative, is dominantly a deposit feeder, grazing on vegetable detritus and algae within seasonal alluvial channels.’
      • ‘In general, trilobites appear to have been benthonic organisms feeding on organic detritus on the sea floor, but some may have captured small soft-bodied organisms which would have been passed forward to the mouth by the limbs.’
      • ‘Tentacles at the end of its body pick up minute plants and detritus (dead organic matter) settling from sea.’
      • ‘Key to the success of parrotfishes is their ability to take up plant material, detritus and calcareous sediment and process it through the action of the pharyngeal jaw.’
      • ‘Recent crinoids are passive suspension feeders on microscopic plant and animal plankton and organic detritus by means of the tubefeet of the water vascular system in their arms and pinnules.’
      • ‘In Acton Lake, our study site, and many other systems, gizzard shad feed almost exclusively on organic detritus as adults.’
      • ‘The accumulation of gases from the decomposition of organic detritus leads to the formation of what are called gas hydrates in marine sediments.’
      • ‘Motile species crawl across the substrate and use tentacles to capture sediment and organic detritus.’
      • ‘Within a few centuries, the stone city of Uaxactún lay in rubble among forest detritus.’
      • ‘Of most critical concern is the fact that these organisms are themselves the vital link between detritus caused by decomposing biomass amongst the sand granules and the living population of our oceans.’
      • ‘Some crustaceans filter tiny plankton or even bacteria from the water; others are active predators; while still others scavenge nutrients from detritus.’
      • ‘No organic detritus or sediment is present in the spaces between coprolites.’
      • ‘Abundant terrestrial gastropods found clustered around fossil plant detritus may have been deposit feeders scavenging dry portions of channel floors.’
      • ‘In this environment potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride and bicarbonate are readily available, particularly for insects that feed on detritus or plant material.’
      • ‘Periwinkles feed blamelessly by scraping detritus and organic matter off almost bare rock.’
      • ‘Still other chelicerates are tiny organisms which feed on detritus, the bits of decaying matter that accumulate on and below the ground.’
      • ‘Guts of E. levis contain copepods, detritus, and algal material.’
      • ‘Plankton and organic detritus sticks to mucus on the body surface and is moved by cilia to the mouth.’


Late 18th century (in the sense ‘detrition’): from French détritus, from Latin detritus, from deterere ‘wear away’.