desert


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!

cultural desert

Any place that is characterized by having a distinct lack of complexity, vibrancy, vitality, or interest in intellectual and artistic activity. After living in New York City for seven years, this little town is something of a cultural desert by comparison. Once considered a cultural desert, the country is now teeming with new museums, extravagant theater productions, and a truly vibrant and eclectic music scene.
See also: desert

desert (someone or something) for (someone or something)

To leave or abandon someone or something for someone or something else. After years of being underpaid, she finally deserted her corporate job. I deserted my homeland for a country that had more opportunities available to me.
See also: desert

desert (someone or something) to (someone or something)

To leave or abandon someone or something to someone or something else. We can't desert Timmy to his grandmother—you know that vile woman can't be trusted! In order to pay the mortgage on my manse, I had to desert several of my jewels to auction.
See also: desert

desert a sinking ship

To leave a situation in which failure is imminent. This phrase alludes to rats, the first ones said to flee a sinking ship. The CEO's sudden resignation seemed strange at the time, but now we know that he was just deserting a sinking ship, as the company has become plagued by scandal.
See also: desert, ship, sink

desert and reward seldom keep company

proverb One will often not receive an anticipated reward. Don't get too hopeful that the teacher will recognize your hard work because desert and reward seldom keep company.

desert cherry

A solider who has only recently arrived in the desert during a war. Oh, you must be a desert cherry. What's your name?
See also: cherry, desert

desert rheumatism

A nickname for coccidioidomycosis, an infection of the lungs and skin caused by inhaling a fungus commonly found in arid areas. She's been coughing nonstop since her trip to the desert—I hope she doesn't have desert rheumatism.
See also: desert

food desert

A location that lack options for nutritious food. The phrase is often associated with urban areas with stores that mostly offer non-perishable food. Good luck finding fresh vegetables around here—this part of the city is a real food desert.
See also: desert, food

get (one's) just deserts

To receive that which one deserves, especially a punishment or unfavorable outcome. (Often misspelled as "just desserts," due to the pronunciation of "deserts" being the same as "desserts" in this context.) The CEO cheated his clients out of nearly $4 million, but he got his just deserts when he was stripped of everything he owned and sent to prison for life.
See also: desert, get, just

just deserts

That which one deserves, especially a punishment or unfavorable outcome. Usually used in the phrase "get/receive one's just deserts." (Note: The phrase is often misspelled as "just desserts," due to the pronunciation of "deserts" and "desserts" being the same in this context.) The CEO cheated his clients out of nearly $4 million, but he got his just deserts when he was stripped of everything he owned and sent to prison.
See also: desert, just

like rats deserting a sinking ship

With great haste and having only personal wellbeing in mind. (Typically said of people who begin abandoning something or someone that is failing or about to fail.) I knew the business was doomed when employees started quitting en masse, like rats deserting a sinking ship. Like rats deserting a sinking ship, the disgraced athlete's corporate sponsors began pulling their sponsorships one after another.
See also: desert, like, rat, ship, sink

rats desert a sinking ship

The least loyal, trustworthy, or dependable people will be the first to begin abandon a failing endeavor. Times of crisis will test the loyalty of the people you've hired. Rats desert a sinking ship, while the people worth holding onto the most will stay until the very end.
See also: desert, rat, ship, sink

rats deserting a sinking ship

People who begin to abandon something or someone that is failing or about to fail with great haste and having only personal wellbeing in mind. The phrase can also be used in the singular, but this is less common. After the new party leader's embarrassing and incendiary comments, many have begun distancing themselves from him and the party's ethos, giving the impression of rats deserting a sinking ship. It's true that I am resigning, but I am not a rat deserting a sinking ship: I have full confidence in this company, I am merely changing course in my career.
See also: desert, rat, ship, sink

receive (one's) just deserts

To receive that which one deserves, especially a punishment or unfavorable outcome. (Note: The phrase is often misspelled as "just desserts," due to the pronunciation of "deserts" and "desserts" being the same in this context.) The CEO cheated his clients out of nearly $4 million, but he received his just deserts when he was stripped of everything he owned and sent to prison.
See also: desert, just, receive
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

desert a sinking ship

 and leave a sinking ship
Fig. to leave a place, a person, or a situation when things become difficult or unpleasant. (Rats are said to be the first to leave a ship that is sinking.) I hate to be the one to desert a sinking ship, but I can't work for a company that continues to lose money. There goes Tom. Wouldn't you know he'd leave a sinking ship rather than stay around and try to help?
See also: desert, ship, sink

Desert and reward seldom keep company.

Prov. If you deserve a reward, you are not necessarily going to get it. Jill: I worked so hard on that project, and Fred is taking all the credit for it. Jane: You know how it goes; desert and reward seldom keep company.

desert (someone or something) for (someone or something else)

to leave someone for someone else; to leave something or some place for some other thing or place. She deserted her husband for another man. Many retirees have deserted northern states for the warmer climates of the South.
See also: desert

desert someone or something to someone or something

to abandon someone or something to someone or something; to let someone or something have someone or something. Who deserted this child to her horrible fate? Sam deserted his land to the horde of grubby prospectors.
See also: desert

get one's just deserts

 and get one's just reward(s); get one's
[specified by context] to get what one deserves. I feel better now that Jane got her just deserts. She really insulted me. The criminal who was sent to prison got his just rewards. You'll get yours!
See also: desert, get, just
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

desert a sinking ship

Abandon a failing enterprise before it is too late. For example, After seeing the company's financial statement, he knew it was time to desert a sinking ship . This metaphoric expression alludes to rats, which leave a vessel when it founders in a storm or runs aground so as to escape drowning. It was transferred to human behavior by about 1600.
See also: desert, ship, sink

just deserts

A deserved punishment or reward, as in He got his just deserts when Mary jilted him. This idiom employs desert in the sense of "what one deserves," a usage dating from the 1300s but obsolete except in this expression.
See also: desert, just
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

just deserts

COMMON If you say that someone has got their just deserts, you mean that they deserve the unpleasant things that have happened to them. Note: The noun `deserts' is related to the verb `deserve', and it is pronounced with stress on its second syllable. Some people felt sympathy for the humbled superstar. Others felt she was getting the just deserts of an actress with a reputation for being difficult. Many said the man who once headed a £4 billion empire had received his just deserts. Note: `Deserts' is an old-fashioned word meaning a reward or punishment which is deserved.
See also: desert, just

like rats deserting a sinking ship

or

like rats leaving a sinking ship

If you describe people who are leaving an organization as being like rats deserting a sinking ship or like rats leaving a sinking ship, you mean they are leaving very quickly because the organization is failing. They abandoned their former colleagues and party like rats deserting a sinking ship. Nelson and Woodward are like rats leaving a sinking ship. Loyalty is not a word they understand. Note: This expression is often used in a disapproving way.
See also: desert, like, rat, ship, sink
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

get (or receive) your just deserts

receive what you deserve, especially appropriate punishment.
See also: desert, get, just

rats deserting a sinking ship

people hurrying to get away from an enterprise or organization that is failing. informal
See also: desert, rat, ship, sink
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

get your (just) deˈserts

get what you deserve, especially when it is something bad: The family of the victim said that the killer had got his just deserts when he was jailed for life.
Deserts is an old-fashioned word for the rewards or punishments that somebody deserves.
See also: desert, get

(like rats) deserting/leaving a sinking ˈship

(humorous, disapproving) used to talk about people who leave an organization, a company, etc. that is having difficulties, without caring about the people who are left: One by one, employees began looking for other jobs, like rats deserting a sinking ship.I might have known he’d be the first rat to desert this sinking ship!
See also: desert, leave, ship, sink
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

desert cherry

n. a new soldier in a desert war; a soldier new to the desert in wartime. (see also cherry.) About 5,000 desert cherries arrived last week. Something is going to happen soon.
See also: cherry, desert
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

just deserts

Deserved reward or punishment. The word desert in this meaning—that is, what is deserved—is almost obsolete except in this cliché but was commonly used until about the mid-eighteenth century. “Desert and rewarde be oft tymes thinges far od” appeared in John Heywood’s Proverbs (1546) and several later collections as well. In other words, what one deserves and the reward one receives are often quite different.
See also: desert, just
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
See also:
References in classic literature ?
Of course it was impossible to drag our heavy elephant rifles and other kit with us across the desert, so, dismissing our bearers, we made an arrangement with an old native who had a kraal close by to take care of them till we returned.
Indeed, that load was a heavy one per man with which to travel across the burning desert, for in such places every additional ounce tells.
I gave out to these natives that we were going to shoot ostriches, with which the desert abounded.
At last, about nine o'clock, up she came in all her glory, flooding the wild country with light, and throwing a silver sheen on the expanse of rolling desert before us, which looked as solemn and quiet and as alien to man as the star-studded firmament above.
If we failed in finding that pool of bad water which the old Dom marked as being situated in the middle of the desert, about sixty miles from our starting-point, and as far from the mountains, in all probability we must perish miserably of thirst.
The wind will blow you swiftly across the desert and the sand cannot touch your flesh to turn it into dust."
"We don't care how it looks," said the shaggy man, "if only it will take us across the desert."
He could hear the savage lord of the desert quite close by now.
Beyond is a faint glimpse of the dimly starlit desert. A grim smile plays about Tarzan's lips.
Together they rose and set off across the desert in the direction of the mountains.
Behind them lay the interminable vista of the desert, dotted here and there with an occasional oasis.
After we had passed this desert we came into a country pretty well inhabited--that is to say, we found towns and castles, settled by the Czar with garrisons of stationary soldiers, to protect the caravans and defend the country against the Tartars, who would otherwise make it very dangerous travelling; and his czarish majesty has given such strict orders for the well guarding the caravans, that, if there are any Tartars heard of in the country, detachments of the garrison are always sent to see the travellers safe from station to station.
This country, I reckon, was, from the desert I spoke of last, at least four hundred miles, half of it being another desert, which took us up twelve days' severe travelling, without house or tree; and we were obliged again to carry our own provisions, as well water as bread.
After this we passed several great rivers, and two dreadful deserts; one of which we were sixteen days passing over; and on the 13th of April we came to the frontiers of the Muscovite dominions.
"According to my solar observations, we are not more than three hundred miles from the Gulf of Guinea; the desert, therefore, cannot extend indefinitely, since the coast is inhabited, and the country has been explored for some distance back into the interior.