A desert is a landscape or region of land that is very dry because of low rainfall amounts (precipitation), often has little coverage by plants, and in which streams dry up unless they are supplied by water from outside areas. Deserts can also be described as areas where more water is lost by evapotranspiration than falls as precipitation. Desert plants must have special adaptations to survive with this little water. Deserts generally receive less than 25 cm of rain (precipitation) each year. Semideserts or steppes are regions which receive between 250 millimetres (10 in) and 400 to 500 millimetres (16 to 20 in).
In the Köppen climate classification system, deserts are classed as BWh (hot desert) or BWk (temperate desert). In the Thornthwaite climate classification system, deserts would be classified as arid megathermal climates.
The name "Sossusvlei" is of mixed origin, and roughly means "dead end marsh". Vlei is the afrikaans word for "marsh", while "sossus" is nama for "no return" or "dead end". Sossusvlei owes this name to the fact that it is an endorheicdrainage basin (i.e., a drainage basin without outflows) for the ephemeral Tsauchab River.