Dessert comes from the French desservir. Desservir simply means to remove what has been served. The word dessert is a participle of this verb. Today, the meaning of the word is a dish served as the last course of the meal, but the word appeared in 1539 and referred to what was eaten after a meal that had been removed from the table. These desserts often referred to fruit and candied nuts (often called sweet meats).
This word was used primarily by the French, but by the eighteenth century British and American Englishmen had adopted the word. By this time, dessert had grown to incorporate more sweets such as pie, puddings, cake, and ice cream in the United States while the British referred to it still as fruits and sweet meats. Previous to both of these eras, French meals incorporated both the sweet and the savory, but modern times, sweet fare was consigned to be eaten after the main meal had been cleared away. Today, dessert refers to an amalgam of sweets served after the main meal has been served and the dishes cleared.