Share this entry

deserts Line breaks: de|serts
Pronunciation: /dɪˈzəːts/

Definition of deserts in English:

plural noun

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.


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.


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.

Words that rhyme with deserts


Definition of deserts in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day fortissimo
Pronunciation: fɔːˈtɪsɪməʊ
(especially as a direction) very loud or loudly