Desert or Dessert?

When choosing between desert or dessert in writing, you have to remind yourself that these two similar-looking words have very little in common.

Is that dry arid space a desert or dessert? Is that sweet treat that completes a meal a dessert or desert? These simple questions have plagued some members of mankind for a long, long time. So let’s try to end the confusion once and for all.

(And hopefully you won’t be too hungry by the time we’re done!)


Desert can operate as a noun or as a verb.

As a noun, it can mean a very dry, barren area where very little life exists. In today’s times, it can also refer to a space in which there is very little of something considered necessary, as in a “food desert,” which refers to some areas where grocery stores or other sources of food may be hard to find, particularly in some low-income areas.

It can also mean consequences considered appropriate for some action and in this usage, it often follows the word just, as in someone getting their “just deserts” for treating someone unkindly.


The word dessert originated from the French desservir, which means literally “removal of what has been served.” In other words, its meaning relates to the last course of a meal that comes after all the rest of the food has been removed from the table.

Desserts come in all sorts of varieties, from cakes to pies to ice cream to fruits to just about anything you can imagine.

My particular favorite is my mom’s lemon pound cake because she manages to create a cake with an incredible flavor that remains moist rather than going dry the way a lot of pound cakes end up. You can see my top 10 desserts here.

If you can remember the phrase “sugary sweet,” the initials of those two words, SS, might help you recall that the rich treat that comes at the end of the meal likewise has a double-S as well.

What’s your favorite dessert?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.