What single word can we use to describe something that has “died through neglect”? For example, a plant that has died due to the gardener forgetting to water it.

Note: I’m specifically hoping to apply this word to a software program that used to be amazing but sadly is no longer maintained and thus defunct.

  • 12
    Defunct is perfect for software - if a library is defunct, it's because nobody is maintaining it anymore. Alternately, consider deprecated.
    – talrnu
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 13:50
  • 3
    Why are you looking for a word to mean something "died", when software cannot die? Abandoned software continues working exactly how it always worked. In casual use, the term "bit rot" is used to describe that abandoned software is not just left alone, but actually stops working as time passes, e.g. from the surrounding software environment changing, making its implicit assumptions no longer hold. - catb.org/jargon/html/B/bit-rot.html although it's not one word, it's more applicable to describe the 'death' bit than forsaken is. Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 15:05
  • 4
    A software specific term (hence not an answer) is 'abandonware'
    – abligh
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 19:33
  • 2
    Deprecated software is software that someone has declared obsolete or faulty. This question pertains to software that is defunct and perhaps obsolete, whether or not anyone has said so.
    – Beta
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 1:03
  • 1
    You used the example of a plant in the title. Is it an herb? It might have suffered from abandonmint. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 13:35

21 Answers 21


I actually really like the word you used: I would refer to such a software program as defunct, especially if it might be resuscitated in the future. From Wiktionary:

defunct (comparative more defunct, superlative most defunct)

  1. (now rare) Deceased, dead.
  2. No longer in use, inactive.
  3. (computing) Specifically, of a program: that has terminated but is still shown in the list of processes because the parent process that created it is still running and has not yet reaped it. See also zombie, zombie process.
  4. (business) No longer in business or service.
  • I think this is the only word anybody's suggested the properly captures the 'dead' part of 'died from neglect'
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 17:59
  • 2
    Captures "terminated" thus "dead" but doesn't capture "neglected" part.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:41
  • 1
    The definition (3) you cite has nothing to do with obsolescence or failure to function; it refers only to currently being non-active, though it is still listed as active Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 6:57


  • carelessly disregarded without consideration for the consequences.

An unsupported program/software will end up useless because of lack of proper assistance:

  • (Computing) (Of a program, language, or device) not having assistance for the user available from a manufacturer or systems manager.


  • 16
    This is the right answer for software, as per the OP. There is even the term "Abandonware". Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 11:37
  • A work of art is never truly complete. It is simply abandoned by the artist. Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 18:58
  • 3
    Just because something is abandoned doesn't mean it's dead, but not being worked on is about as close as a software program gets to dying, so I guess this works in that specific case
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:01
  • @Josh61 I didn't. I didn't upvote either.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:07


Completely deserted or helpless; abandoned.



Although the word is often used for buildings and the like, used in a little bit of a metaphorical way I am sure the picture will be clear if you use derelict.

1 In a very poor condition as a result of disuse and neglect [ODO]

I have often seen software (from an architectural perspective) described as a building, and this would fit right in when the building starts to collapse because of poor maintenance.

  • This is possibly the closest. How natural a derelict petunia sounds is a different matter; probably it would work better in computing. Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 9:18
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth It may depend on the size of your petunia, I guess. Please note I have no clue about botany.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 9:24
  • Although I wouldn't use derelict for software specifically, I like it for describing an old website that hasn't been updated for a long time. Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 13:39
  • "The derelict petunia still clung to tiny bits of green near its stem, but it was clearly past rescue." A bit poetic, maybe, but understandable.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 23:49

The specific word for this state, when referring to software, is abandonware:

Abandonware is a product, typically software, ignored by its owner and manufacturer, and for which no product support is available. Although such software is usually still under copyright, the owner may not be tracking or enforcing copyright violations. Abandonware is one case of the general concept of orphan works. - Wikipedia

There are lots of communities that care for and try to resurrect or provide new homes for abandonware: https://www.google.ca/search?q=abandonware - especially old abandonware games.

  • I wasn't even sure if it was a real word, but this was the first thing that came to my mind.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 19:46

In the specific context of software projects, those which lose their maintainer are usually called either abandoned or orphaned.

Quoting the wiktionary:


  1. No longer maintained by its former owners, residents or caretakers; forsaken, deserted.


  1. Abandoned

    I found an orphaned project, half-completed before its author quit, and decided to finish it.


Withered. This can be used for a plant that is deficient of water or for an arm that doesn't have enough muscle, whether due to old age or a medical condition.

  • And by analogy can be used for some other forms of neglect. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 2:58

You can use the simple term,'disuse'.

As: The garden fell into disuse and became overgrown.

Other terms like 'desuetude' or 'abandoned' or'forsaken' may be tried.

Yet another term, 'dilapidated'(meaning fallen into a state of deterioration, especially through neglect) may suit the purpose. It has synonyms like rundown, tumbledown,unkempt, bedraggled etc.



  1. miserable, wretched, or cheerless; desolate
  2. deserted; forsaken
  3. (foll by: of) destitute; bereft: forlorn of hope.
  4. desperate: the last forlorn attempt.


Note: there might also be an idea of sadness because of this status.



Dilapidated : decayed, deteriorated, or fallen into partial ruin especially through neglect or misuse Merriam-Webster

It's a 90% fit in the plant case (because the plant's already dead), but exactly right for every other use.



It's a standard term for a program or software feature that was intentionally declared to be obsolete, regardless of whether it was still in use. I would say that the software in question has been neglected ever since it was deprecated.

(taken from the comments by talrnu and recognizer; certainly deserves to be an answer)

  • I believe there is a misconception in the programming world that deprecated is synonymous with obsolete. To deprecate something is to express disapproval of it; thus, a deprecated feature is one that is no longer considered appropriate to use. It really doesn't make any sense to say that a flower has been deprecated.
    – Théophile
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 5:08
  • 1
    @Théophile the OP did specifically mention that this is for a software project though, so I thnk the answer has merit. The question is whether the project was intentionally abandonded.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 21:51
  • 1
    @dwjohnston Fair enough, but even so, deprecated doesn't refer to something that has died from neglect. "It is strongly recommended that you not use this" is different from "no one cares about this anymore".
    – Théophile
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 3:38

In French there is dépérir that describes this exact nuance. French are pretty melancolic I guess, to have a word that describes this.

Mostly it is used in reflexive form, se dépérir de (dying from the neglect of something or someone in particular).

So if you're not afraid of gallicism you could try deperish.



To gradually decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect

Example: WordPerfect was wonderful program before it atrophied.



  1. suffer from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation. "he has been languishing in jail since 1974" synonyms: waste away, rot, be abandoned, be neglected, be forgotten, suffer, experience hardship "the general is now languishing in prison"
  • I think we're looking for an adjective
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 17:57

My choice for the best one-word term would simply be: OUTDATED. Neglect is the "lack of attention/maintenance." So, just as the forgotten house plant may expire from lack of being watered, a software program may become obsolete due to the lack of updating. Hence, without maintenance it is replaced by newer programs. It becomes outdated.
Of course, this is not in reference to the (plant) example given, but to the actual question.


software rot

(programming) The tendency of software that has not been used in a while to fail; such failure may be semi-humorously ascribed to bit rot. More commonly, "software rot" strikes when a program's assumptions become out of date. If the design was insufficiently robust, this may cause it to fail in mysterious ways.



Put in an oubliette perhaps? An oubliette was a place where you imprisoned people who you wished to forget about. You just dropped them in and left, although in actuality they were often fed and watered pending ransom. https://thebrokenpiecesofme.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/oubliette-new-word-for-the-day/


Legally speaking, it's

gross negligence

Gross negligence is a legal concept which means serious carelessness. Negligence is the opposite of diligence, or being careful. The standard of ordinary negligence is what conduct deviates from the proverbial "reasonable person." By analogy, if somebody has been grossly negligent, that means they have fallen so far below the ordinary standard of care that one can expect, to warrant the label of being "gross." (Wikipedia)

You can also say that it's criminal (negligence)

informal (Of an action or situation) deplorable and shocking:

As in: "It's criminal (negligence) that they stopped supporting that software"

EDIT: Oh, I see you want a word to describe the dead plant, not the process... In that case, The software is grossly/criminally neglected

  • 3
    "Gross negligence" and "criminal" to not water a plant? Wow... you must be a real plant lover. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 2:25

I don't think there is a single word that captures "died from neglect". Most of the answers till now capture the "neglected" part but not "died from neglect". Wither came close but still no cigar. Although, there is an idiom based on wither that exactly fits:

wither on the vine (also die on the vine)

Fig. [for someone or something] to be ignored or neglected and thereby be wasted.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs.

if something withers on the vine, it is destroyed very gradually, usually because no one does anything to help or support it

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary

It can be used in software-related contexts also. Here is an excerpt from the book Software Project Survival Guide by Steve McConnell (1997):

About two million people are working on about 300,000 software projects in the United States at this time. Between one third and two thirds of those projects will exceed their schedule and budget targets before they are delivered. Of the most expensive software projects, about half will eventually be canceled for being out of control. Many more are canceled in subtle ways—they are left to wither on the vine, or their sponsors simply declare victory and leave the battlefield without any new software to show for their trouble.

  • 1
    @DCShannon: Did you read the first sentence in my answer? Sometimes single word doesn't cover what OP asks for. I don't understand the down-votes also. I gave details instead of giving the synonyms of "neglected".
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:19
  • 1
    -1, This answer doesn't give a single word adjective as requested, and its assertion that there is no such word is incorrect, as shown by the other answers on this page.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:26
  • 1
    @DCShannon: That doesn't mean answer is incorrect. That is very personal also. I already gave details. I have no idea why other answers are upvoted. Question is not asking the synonym of "neglected". Also the title of the question was not asking the details in the question body.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:28
  • Additionally, some answers captured "dead" part only and not "neglected". I think only derelict came close but still doesn't cover "dead".
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 18:42


the state of being forgotten


Exanimate may be one word that can fit here.


1. inanimate or lifeless.

2. spiritless; disheartened.

Source : http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/exanimate

  • This does not related to neglect. Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 11:21

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.