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Latin derelictus perfect participle of dērelinquō (I forsake, I abandon) from dē- + relinquō (I forsake, I leave).



derelict (comparative more derelict, superlative most derelict)

  1. Abandoned, forsaken; given up by the natural owner or guardian; (of a ship) abandoned at sea, dilapidated, neglected; (of a spacecraft) abandoned in outer space.
    There was a derelict ship on the island.
    • Jeremy Taylor
      The affections which these exposed or derelict children bear to their mothers, have no grounds of nature or assiduity but civility and opinion.
    • 2011, “When and where did NASA's derelict satellite go down?”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name)[1]:
  2. Negligent in performing a duty.
  3. Lost; adrift; hence, wanting; careless; neglectful; unfaithful.
    • Burke
      They easily prevailed, so as to seize upon the vacant, unoccupied, and derelict minds of his friends; and instantly they turned the vessel wholly out of the course of his policy.
    • John Buchanan
      A government which is either unable or unwilling to redress such wrongs is derelict to its highest duties.




derelict (plural derelicts)

  1. Property abandoned by its former owner, especially a ship abandoned at sea.
    • 1907, Robert W. Service, “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, in The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses:
      Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
      It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May".
      And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
      Then "Here", said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."
  2. (dated) An abandoned or forsaken person; an outcast.
    • 1911 Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” (Norton 2005, p.1364):
      A rather pathetic figure, the Lady Frances, a beautiful woman, still in fresh middle age, and yet, by a strange chance, the last derelict of what only twenty years ago was a goodly fleet.
  3. A homeless and/or jobless person; a person who is (perceived as) negligent in their personal affairs and hygiene. (This sense is a modern development of the preceding sense.)
    • 1988, Jonathan D. Spence, The Question of Hu:
      As they hunt, the Archers and Duval find many derelicts and ne'er-do-wells in many parts of Paris.
    • 2002, in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of D. H. Lawrence, The Boy in the Bush, edited by Paul Eggert, page 22:
      If they're lazy derelicts and ne'er-do-wells she'll eat 'em up. But she's waiting for real men — British to the bone —
    • 2004, Katherine V. W. Stone, From Widgets to Digits: Employment Regulation, page 280:
      We see the distinction at work when victims of natural disasters and terrorist attacks are treated more generously than derelicts and drug addicts.


See also[edit]