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Latin derelictus, perfect passive participle of dērelinquō (to forsake, abandon) from dē- + relinquō (to abandon, relinquish, leave (behind)), from rē- + linquō (to leave, quit, forsake, depart from).


  • IPA(key): /ˈdɛɹəlɪkt/
    • (file)


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.
    • 1649, Jeremy Taylor, The History of the Life and Death of Jesus Christ
      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.
    • 1774, Edmund Burke, A Speech on American Taxation
      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.
    • 1859, John Buchanan, Third State of the Union Address
      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]