1 : the scum or unwanted material that forms on the surface of molten metal
2 : waste or foreign matter : impurity
3 : something that is base, trivial, or inferior
Did you know?
Dross has been a part of the English language since Anglo-Saxon times. It comes from the Old English word drōs, meaning “dregs,” those solid materials that fall to the bottom of a container full of a liquid such as coffee or wine. While dross today is used to refer to anything of low value or quality, its earliest use is technical: dross is a metallurgy term referring to solid scum that forms on the surface of a metal when it is molten or melting—remove the dross to improve the metal. The metallurgical sense of the word is often hinted at in its general use, with dross set in contrast to gold, as when 19th century British poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Besides, those days were golden days, / Whilst these are days of dross.”
“From King John’s compulsion by feudal lords to sign the Magna Carta to the execution of King Charles by Parliamentarian forces, English governance was forged, with the dross constantly falling away, in situations as real and uncertain as in our time.” — Douglas D. Ford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3 Nov. 2020
“Mark Kurlansky is a shining example of a writer who can turn seeming dross into gold. Books like Salt and Cod elevate humdrum topics to objects of fascination by revealing them as pivotal players in the dramas of human history.” — Barbara Lane, The San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Jan. 2021