Word of the Day


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the process by which land becomes so dry that it cannot be used for farming

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary

Origin and usage

The noun desertification is formed from the noun ‘desert’ and the suffix ‘-ification’, added to nouns to indicate the process of becoming something. It dates from the latter part of the 20th century.


A 2017 entry in our crowdsourced Open Dictionary was de-desertification, submitted by a user in Iran. This is still a relatively infrequent term, but desertification is well established; it has been in our dictionary since the days of print. In common with many other non-core words, however, the entry was short, consisting of grammatical and pronunciation information and a definition. The current entry has several added features: a helpful image, an example, and a link to the thesaurus entry for Soil fertility and fertilization. This enables the interested user to explore related vocabulary, from biosolids to unproductive, as well as related topics such as Soil and earth and Words used to describe soil and soil quality.  This simple entry is a good illustration of the ways in which an electronic format can offer users so much more than a printed dictionary. We will continue to expand and enhance entries like desertification, alongside the addition of new words, meanings and features to Macmillan Dictionary.


The United Nations’ official definition says desertification is land degradation in typically dry areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.

Related words

erosion, fertility, infertile, unproductive

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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