Today I want to look at the words dessert and desert. Note how that the first has two s’s and the second just one.
While dessert and desert are pronounced slightly differently—in dessert, the second syllable is emphasized and in desert the first syllable is—it’s for the most part simple enough to say them correctly. The trouble comes when you have to write them out. Which is which? Here’s where I can help you.
Dessert—with two s’s—is the sweet treat often eaten after dinner.
Desert—with one s—actually has four definitions (no, I’m not joking).
In the first definition it’s a noun: an arid, warm area of land, such as the Sahara Desert.
In the second it’s an adjective and means sparsely occupied or unoccupied, such as a desert island.
In the third definition it’s a verb and means to withdraw or abandon, such as deserting the army or deserting a friend.
Finally, in the fourth definition it is also a noun. It means to receive a deserved reward or punishment; note: deserved = desert. This is where the idiom “just deserts” comes from: someone received what they deserved.
Which Is Which
Now that you know there are so many definitions, I have a simple way for you to remember how each is spelled.
Sweets after dinner is dessert. Sweets has two s’s just like dessert. This is the only way dessert with two s’s should be used.
All the other uses only have one s.
Don’t forget to leave your questions and comments below!