detritus \dih-TRYE-tus\ noun
Detritus refers to debris—that is, the pieces that remain when something breaks, falls apart, or is destroyed.
// On her trip to Central America, she was fascinated by how much people have learned from the detritus of ancient civilizations.
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“[Artist, Fiona] Connor’s one-to-one scale version of the sidewalk squares required a single concrete pour in her studio before she got to work painstakingly recreating the cracks, fissures, graffiti, blackened chewing gum debris, stamps and metal plates common to L.A. sidewalks. She is chronicling the detritus of urban life, the echoes of the city’s past evident in the patches, and nature’s attempt at reclamation all visible in the humble squares of concrete and asphalt.” — Marissa Gluck, The Los Angeles Times, 19 Aug. 2023
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 referring to loose material, such as broken rock fragments, resulting from disintegration—that can be applied in many situations. After the first hard freeze of fall, gardens are littered with the detritus of 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, while mental detritus may include all kinds of useless trivia. (We’re not saying it qualifies as such, but detritus comes from the Latin root deterere, meaning “to wear away, impair.”)