In Latin, the term desertus means a place that is deserted or isolated, similar to the English term wilderness. Thus the famous description of John the Baptist as vox clamantis in deserto in the Gospel of John means “a voice crying in the wilderness.” Since arid areas are often sparsely populated, especially in North Africa, the term gradually began to mean places both arid and deserted.
In contemporary English, a desert is simply defined as a place with less than 10 inches of annual rainfall (in the form of rain or snow). Deserts can be hot, as in the Saharan desert, or cold, as in the Gobi desert.
There are 4 different types of North American desert, Chihuahuan Desert, Great Basin Desert, Mojave Desert, and Sonoran Desert, distinguished by different characteristic ecosystems and types of climax vegetation.