from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun idiomatic A punishment or reward that is considered to be what the recipient deserved.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an outcome in which virtue triumphs over vice (often ironically)


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  • NOT "just desserts".

    March 17, 2007

  • I never did understand this phrase. And I live in the desert. I always liked to imagine that it was just desserts, meaning you'll eat whatever dessert is proportionate to your deeds, according to blind justice. If you've been bad, getting your just desserts entails eating a load of... well, you know.

    March 18, 2007

  • I agree. I always thought it was desserts too. Recently found out differently and that was when I listed it and made my comment. Probably should have put an (!) rather than a mere (.) at the end of the comment!

    March 20, 2007

  • Phooey. I'd always thought that it was in the same family as eating crow, eating one's words, and other cake-eating, bread-buttering sayings. I had a whole mental picture of the various kinds of just desserts people would have to eat. Cacti and cattle skulls just can't compete. Sigh.

    March 20, 2007

  • But it's not cacti and cow skulls -- it's getting what you deserve. I suppose you might call it an archaicism for 'deservings'.

    August 21, 2008

  • Milo is right about the meaning: one's desert (with the stress on the second syllable) is that which one deserves. The Oxford American defines "desert" (the third entry, after "desert, v. = to abandon" and "desert, n. = barren land") as "a person's worthiness or entitlement to reward or punishment." But it is not an archaism. Everyone still uses and understands the idiom, "to get one's just deserts," even if they get the spelling wrong and think it has something to do with death-by-chocolate vs. death by fruitcake. But no one thinks, "Oh, that's the sort of thing they said in Elizabethan England."

    August 21, 2008

  • What I meant by archaism is that the use of 'deserts' in the English language is solely restricted to this construction. Anything else, one would you 'what he deserved' or something.

    August 22, 2008

  • I think you're overstating the situation, M. It's probably true that the only time one would say "deserts" is this sense is in the phrase "just deserts", but it is still used in formal writing. The phrase "in accordance with their deserts", for example, gets around 500 Google hits and "according to their deserts" gets over 10,000 hits. And Princeton Univ. Press just published a book called Moral Agents and Their Deserts. I'll grant you that the use of this word is limited, but it's not archaic, at least not yet.

    August 22, 2008

  • point taken

    August 22, 2008