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Dessert vs. Desert: What’s the Difference?

Dessert with two s's is the sweet stuff we eat after dinner. Desert with a single s refers to the sandy, arid regions, as in the Sahara desert.

Dessert vs. desert

Surely you would have no trouble differentiating a delicious chocolate cake from a dry, barren wasteland…? In writing, the two words are a mere letter apart, and are regularly confused. Let’s speak to the difference; that is, the difference between dessert and desert.

While these words sound similar, desert and dessert are homophones that mean very different things, and are also pronounced slightly different.

  • Desert with one s refers to the dry, barren region where you wouldn’t want to get trapped without any water. The pronunciation of desert here is more like dez-ert, as if it were spelled with a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’.

  • Dessert with two s’s refers to the final course we occasionally have after dinner (if we’re lucky). This can include anything from pastries, cakes, ice cream, chips, cookies or whatever sweet stuff (read: the double s) one could desire.

The difference between: dessert vs. desert

Sentences with ‘dessertSentences with ‘desert
What’s for dessert?They travelled many miles across burning desert sands.

The verb form of ‘desert’

Desert as a noun means “a large area of land that has very little water and very few plants growing on it. Many deserts are covered by sand”. Maybe you’ve heard of some of the world’s most famous deserts, like the Sahara desert, which is the largest hot desert and the third largest desert overall in the world. There’s also the famous Mojave desert in the United States, and the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa.

Desert has another application and meaning when used as a verb. In its verb form, desert means, “to leave somebody without help or support”. Here, desert is synonymous with words like abandon, betray or flee.

A quick tip to remember the difference between the two words and spellings is to think of the two s’s in dessert as an acronym for “something sweet” or “sweet stuff“, which is precisely what desserts are.

Common phrases with “desert”

Phrases with desertMeaning
to be as dry as a desert To be extremely dry.
cultural desert A place that lacks culture.
to desert (someone or something) for (someone or something)To abandon something or someone for something or someone else.
to desert a sinking shipTo leave a situation in which failure is imminent.
desert and reward seldom keep companyRarely do we get rewards we anticipate.
desert cherryA soldier who has recently arrived in the desert during a war.
desert rheumatismA nickname for coccidioidomycosis (an infection of the lungs and skin caused by inhaling a fungus).
food desertA location that lack options for nutritious food. The phrase is often associated with urban areas with stores that mostly offer non-perishable food (The Idiom Dictionary).
to get (one’s) just desertsTo get what one deserves (not normally meant in a positive way).

Synonyms of dessert

  • last course
  • sweet course
  • confection
  • cookie
  • cake
  • frozen treat


Synonyms of desert


  • desolate
  • arid
  • uninhabited
  • wilderness
  • barren

Read about other confusing words

Commonly misused wordsUK English vs. US English
former vs. latterburned or burnt?
bear with vs. bare withcolor or colour?
breathe or breathfavorite vs. favourite
compliment vs. complementsmelled or smelt?
effect vs. affectgray or grey?
elude or alludefavor vs. favour
it’s or itsanalyze or analyse?


  1. Desert, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, accessed on Oct 4, 2023.
  2. Dessert, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, accessed on Oct 4, 2023.
  3. 12 most famous deserts in the world,
  4. Desert,, accessed on Oct 4, 2023.
  5. Dessert,, accessed on Oct 4, 2023.
  6. Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary. S.v. “desert.” Retrieved January 31 2024 from

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