Definition of deserts in English:


Line breaks: de|serts
Pronunciation: /dɪˈzəːts


  • What a person deserves with regard to reward or (more usually) punishment: the penal system fails to punish offenders in accordance with their deserts
    More example sentences
    • Commentators talk about deserving a result, precisely because there's such a wide gap between deserts and rewards.
    • It would be our just deserts for being so ‘arrogant’.
    • We must not demand justice if we are to see it anywhere; above all, we must not compare our deserts or rewards with those of others.


get (or receive) one's just deserts

Receive what one deserves, especially appropriate punishment: those who caused great torment to others rarely got their just deserts
More example sentences
  • Even defendants who are returned to court rarely receive their just deserts.
  • All of this might be put down to us being both blatant and stupid travellers, ignorantly and arrogantly swanning our way around and duly receiving our just deserts.
  • When Debra and Robert learn of the deception, Raymond receives his just deserts in a marvelous confrontation scene at the dance club.


Middle English: via Old French desert, from deservir 'serve well' (see deserve).


If a person gets their just deserts they get what they deserve. Deserts here is related to deserve, and is spelled with one -s- in the middle; a dessert is a sweet course eaten at the end of a meal. The -ss- spelling in the sense ‘what a person deserves’ is regarded as an error, although in the Oxford English Corpus it is almost as common as the correct spelling.

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