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Desert vs. Dessert: What’s the Difference?

Last updated on November 6th, 2023 at 12:02 am

Dessert vs desert: what’s the difference?

Surely you would have no trouble differentiating between a delicious, chocolate cake, and a dry, barren wasteland. In writing, the two words are a mere one letter apart from each other (and are often confused), that is, the difference between dessert and desert.

The correct usage of desert vs. dessert

While they might seem the same from a phonetical standpoint, desert and dessert mean very different things, and also sound slightly different spoken aloud. Let’s clear up the confusion, and answer any questions you may have on this pair of homophones.

When to use “Dessert” vs. “Desert”:

Sunset over Saharan sand dunes. Image: Anton Petrus/Shutterstock
Sunset over Saharan sand dunes. Image: Anton Petrus/Shutterstock


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’.

To give you a better (more official) definition, a desert is “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.

The word desert also has another application, and that’s as a verb. In its verb form, the word desert means, “to leave somebody without help or support”. An example of desert in context as a verb is, ”She was deserted by her husband.” In its verb form, desert is synonymous with words like abandon, betray or flee.

Examples of desert in sentences:

Somalia is mostly desert.

They travelled many miles across burning desert sands.

Occasionally, we passed a desert oasis surrounded by small tracts of grass and shrub.

The town has become a cultural desert.


Dessert spelled with the double s is a noun and a delicious meal we eat after dinner (if we’re lucky). Dessert usually involves something sweet or chocolate-y, and should always be delicious.

Hopefully this answers the question on the difference between dessert with two s’s and desert with a single s.  If you still need help remembering the difference, think of the two s’s in dessert as an acronym for ‘something sweet’, which is exactly what a dessert is!

Examples of dessert in sentences:

What’s for dessert?

The waiter asked us if we’d like to order a dessert.

This chestnut pudding is a rich dessert with a festive flavour.

We had mousse for dessert.

Synonyms of dessert

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


Synonyms of desert


  • desolate
  • arid
  • uninhabited
  • wilderness
  • barren

Check out other commonly confused words!


  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.