I'm looking for a (preferably single) word to describe a place where there are no people. Empty somehow implies that there's nothing at all there, deserted says that people left or abandoned this place.

I'm not sure about peopleless, seems like a weird construction and I couldn't find it in a dictionary.

For example:

I looked out onto the street and it was ______
I walked into the lobby and it was ______

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    From Macmillan: empty (adj.) 1. containing nothing 2. containing no people 3. containing very few people or things. With that in mind, I can see how there would be ambiguity for empty street (it might imply a lack of traffic and a lack of people), but I think we can discern the meaning of empty lobby just by context. – J.R. Aug 4 '15 at 17:33
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    @J.R. I agree. Empty is perfectly suitable. Sometimes I think people just make things unnecessarily complicated for themselves. – spacetyper Aug 4 '15 at 18:43
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    "Unpopulated" might fit the bill, though it might be more appropriate for a city than a lobby... – Tom Auger Aug 4 '15 at 18:45
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    I read the title and thought "You can't have a void of anything. It's a void!". For a phrase, you might like devoid of people. – user39425 Aug 5 '15 at 16:34
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    I agree that deserted is probably what you want - "The streets were deserted" is a relatively common phrase. In other situations if you do want to say "people left or abandoned this place" then I would say "I looked out onto the street and it had been deserted". – Richiban Aug 5 '15 at 16:48

12 Answers 12


I think you are looking for deserted.

Definition of deserted in English:


  1. (Of a place) empty of people:

    • deserted streets

    • The office was completely deserted.

  1. left by a person or people who do not intend to return

    synonym abandoned

    • a deserted village

    • deserted wives


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  • Does it carry a connotation that it was somehow wilfully abandoned, not just in a state of not being any people there ? – user89753 Aug 4 '15 at 17:24
  • Yes, but that is only mentioned in the learner page. Added it. – Bookeater Aug 4 '15 at 17:32
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    I would say that WHY a place is deserted is ambiguous. If I wanted to indicate that a place had specifically been abandoned, I would say that it had been "purposefully deserted", or, more simply "abandoned". "Abandoned" means that it was left empty on purpose with no ambiguity. – Chris B. Behrens Aug 4 '15 at 20:11
  • @ChrisB.Behrens It depends on the context. Deserted can absolutely be used as a very close synonym to abandoned. In some contexts, it is more ambiguous, but not all contexts. – jpmc26 Aug 5 '15 at 1:00
  • @Blackbird57 less so than the actual word "abandoned" does. I could say "at 3 a.m. the town square is deserted", which shouldn't bring to mind people rushing out of the square, just the fact that nobody goes there in the middle of the night :) – hobbs Aug 6 '15 at 7:09

Depending on what kind of connotation you are looking to convey, might I suggest Desolate?


adjective ˈdesələt/ 1. (of a place) deserted of people and in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness. "a desolate moor" synonyms: bleak, stark, bare, dismal, grim; More

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    Desolate does fit, but to me implies a sense of post-apocalypticness. I immediately think of burned out buildings and rubble. Personal opinion perhaps! – shearn89 Aug 6 '15 at 8:39

I like Bookeater's suggestion of "deserted", but if you want an alternative, I'd suggest "vacant", which is defined by Merriam-Webster as "not filled, used, or lived in".

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  • Ah, beat me to it. :-) "vacant" certainly feels the most natural, given his examples. otoh, it is possible that I simply have an odd sense of words. – zxq9 Aug 5 '15 at 3:08
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    Doesn't vacant somehow carry the meaning that one expects the vacant place to be occupied by someone who is looking for such a vacant place? It depends on the context, but if we are talking about a shopping center in an inconvenient location that was abandoned by all store owners, and then also by the owners (as in, they're not planning to reactivate it), does it sound fitting that the shopping center is "vacant"? – O. R. Mapper Aug 5 '15 at 14:49

"Uninhabited" should fit the bill.

Having no residents; not inhabited. (TFD)

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    Uninhabited lobby ? Can I say that ? Sounds odd :-/ – user89753 Aug 4 '15 at 17:24
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    @Blackbird - that's what happens when you spurn perfectly suitable words. I don't think that empty restaurant implies there are no tables and chairs in the dining room. – J.R. Aug 4 '15 at 17:29
  • @J.R. good point. Not spurning, trying to understand :) – user89753 Aug 4 '15 at 17:31
  • @Blackbird57, it sounds fine to me. :-) – Hellion Aug 4 '15 at 17:42
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    This only works for locations that might normally be inhabited. You wouldn't talk about an "uninhabited soccer field", for example. "Unoccupied" similarly might work in some contexts, but not necessarily all contexts. – The Photon Aug 4 '15 at 20:38

A place devoid of people, anyone? It does not carry the notion of former presence as many of the other suggestions seem to do.

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I'm surprised lonely hasn't come up. While per the dictionary definition, it typically refers to an emotion that affects people, I've seen it used to great affect in writing to describe places.

I walked through the lonely streets

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  • Lonely doesn't necessarily mean completely devoid of people. "The park is lonely" may mean there are only a few people. – Rohcana Aug 5 '15 at 22:23

I'd also consider unoccupied, meaning without occupants:

occupant ˈɒkjʊp(ə)nt/ noun

a person who resides or is present in a house, vehicle, seat, etc., at a given time.

So it implies a temporary absence of people.

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  • Umm, wouldn't that be "vacant"? – einpoklum Aug 6 '15 at 11:02
  • vacant is similar to deserted in that it implies in some cases that no-one will ever come back there (eg. the shelf was vacant), or in other cases that the person that used it previously will not come back there (the car parking space was vacant) – NibblyPig Aug 6 '15 at 11:40

Lonely would do some of what you are looking for depending on the audience. I enjoy the phrase "People stayed away in droves."

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  • Lonely has already been suggested – Mitch Aug 29 '17 at 22:57
  • That is a great phrase. – BrainSlugs83 Jul 25 at 18:11

Why not unpopulated if it has to be a single word or devoid of people if a phrase is acceptable?

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I'd go with simply empty. The image of "empty streets" recurs frequently in songs (see https://www.lyrics.com/lyrics/empty%20streets for several thousand examples). And an "empty lobby" would be empty of people, not of furniture.

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Most of the above words portray 'once were people but now after ...' I prefer 'as always without people', as untamed, serene, lonesome, transpicuous.

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I looked out onto the street and it was kenopsic. Kenopsia is a new word i came across. Kenopsia refers to the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that is usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet.

I saw it here. Google has more.

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    I don't think kenopsic is a real word, or an organically arising neologism. From the site: "We picked some of our favourite words from this dictionary for you to understand and relate with. The words may not exist yet, but who's stopping us from using them?" – WithScience Aug 5 '15 at 15:10
  • Don't use that. – J. Chris Compton Jun 27 '18 at 20:18