A barren or desolate area, especially: A dry, often sandy region of little rainfall, extreme temperatures, and sparse vegetation. A region of permanent cold that is largely or entirely devoid of life. An apparently lifeless area of water. An empty or forsaken place; a wasteland: a cultural desert. Archaic A wild, uncultivated, and uninhabited region. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or inhabiting a desert: desert fauna. Barren and uninhabited; desolate: a desert island. Something that is deserved or merited, especially a punishment. Often used in the plural: They got their just deserts when the scheme was finally uncovered. The state or fact of deserving reward or punishment. To leave empty or alone; abandon. To withdraw from, especially in spite of a responsibility or duty; forsake: deserted her friend in a time of need. To abandon (a military post, for example) in violation of orders or an oath. To forsake one's duty or post, especially to be absent without leave from the armed forces with no intention of returning.