Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for September 22, 2019 is:
detritus • dih-TRYE-tus • noun
1 geology : loose material (such as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration
2 a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris
b : miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends
“Much to our shock, when my roommates and I opened the cabinets above and underneath our sink, we stood witness to an unbelievable mess. All of the detritus left as a result of the incomplete, shoddy work of ‘renovating’ the apartment appeared to have just been shoved behind the doors. Bags of random trash, dust bunnies, and paper towels filled the space.” — Daniel Varghese, GQ.com, 6 Aug. 2019
“As telescopes grow more advanced, astronomers have become more adept at finding not just white dwarf systems, but also the detritus that sometimes surrounds them. Often these objects–which might be planets, asteroids, comets, or other space junk—are noticed only after they fall into the white dwarf, contaminating the star’s otherwise pure outer layers.” — Korey Haynes, Discover Magazine, 7 Aug. 2019
Did you know?
If you use detritus in speech, remember to stress the second syllable, as you do in the words arthritis and bronchitis. Once you’ve mastered its meaning and pronunciation, you’ll find that detritus is a term—originally a geology term—that can be applied in many situations. After the first hard freeze of fall, gardens are littered with the detritus of the summer’s plants and produce: stalks, leaves, vines, and maybe even an abandoned hand trowel. As a flood-swollen river retreats to its banks, it leaves detritus—debris gathered by the raging waters—in its wake. The detritus of civilization may include junkyards and abandoned buildings; mental detritus may include all kinds of useless trivia.