aus·​tere ȯ-ˈstir How to pronounce austere (audio)
 also  -ˈster
: stern and cold in appearance or manner
an austere Puritan
: somber, grave
an austere critic
: morally strict : ascetic
: markedly simple or unadorned
an austere office
an austere style of writing
: giving little or no scope for pleasure
austere diets
of a wine : having the flavor of acid or tannin predominant over fruit flavors usually indicating a capacity for aging
austerely adverb
austereness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for austere

severe, stern, austere, ascetic mean given to or marked by strict discipline and firm restraint.

severe implies standards enforced without indulgence or laxity and may suggest harshness.

severe military discipline

stern stresses inflexibility and inexorability of temper or character.

stern arbiters of public morality

austere stresses absence of warmth, color, or feeling and may apply to rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial.

living an austere life in the country

ascetic implies abstention from pleasure and comfort or self-indulgence as spiritual discipline.

the ascetic life of the monks

Examples of austere in a Sentence

This is a national conceit that is the comprehensible result of the religious beliefs of the early New England colonists (Calvinist religious dissenters, moved by millenarian expectations and theocratic ideas), which convinced them that their austere settlements in the wilderness represented a new start in humanity's story. William Pfaff, New York Review, 15 Feb. 2007
For many of us with no firsthand familiarity with Greece, it's easy to forget that its celebrated ruins are a distortion and that we behold its ancient culture in its bare-bones lineaments. The austere white buildings of the Acropolis were once painted and parti-colored structures. Brad Leithauser, New York Times Book Review, 26 Mar. 2006
I cut off my long dark hair, put on the habit (and it was quite becoming, in an austere sort of way), wrapped a big rosary around my waist, threw the cloak over my shoulders and set out. Albert E. Cowdrey, Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2005
Certain kinds of landscapes—volatile ocean environments, sculpturally seductive alpine peaks, austere polar regions—became infused with what philosopher Edmund Burke called "a sort of delightful horror." James Balog, American Photo, May/June 2004
They choose austere furnishings for the office. He was known for his austere style of writing. They lived an austere life in the country.
Recent Examples on the Web Braugher’s austere, multifaceted Captain Holt ultimately proved to be his longest-running character, appearing in 153 episodes across the show’s eight seasons. Wesley Stenzel,, 12 Dec. 2023 In places experienced in treating dengue, fatality rates are often less than 1%, but one in five patients can die in more austere environments. Stephen J. Thomas, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 See all Example Sentences for austere 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'austere.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin austerus, from Greek austēros harsh, severe; akin to Greek hauos dry — more at sere

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of austere was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near austere

Cite this Entry

“Austere.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


aus·​tere ȯ-ˈsti(ə)r How to pronounce austere (audio)
: stern and unfriendly in appearance and manner
: living a harsh life with few pleasures : ascetic
: simple sense 4a, unadorned
an austere room
austerely adverb

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