adjective aus·tere \ ȯ-ˈstir also -ˈster \
|Updated on: 9 Aug 2018

Definition of austere

1 a : stern and cold in appearance or manner
  • an austere Puritan
b : somber, grave
  • an austere critic
2 : morally strict : ascetic
3 : markedly simple or unadorned
  • an austere office
  • an austere style of writing
4 : giving little or no scope for pleasure
  • austere diets
5 of a wine : having the flavor of acid or tannin predominant over fruit flavors usually indicating a capacity for aging





Examples of austere in a Sentence

  1. 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 PfaffNew York Review15 Feb. 2007
  2. 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 LeithauserNew York Times Book Review26 Mar. 2006
  3. 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. CowdreyFantasy & Science FictionMarch 2005
  4. 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 BalogAmerican PhotoMay/June 2004
  5. They choose austere furnishings for the office.

  6. He was known for his austere style of writing.

  7. They lived an austere life in the country.

Recent Examples of austere from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'austere.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of austere

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

AUSTERE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of austere for English Language Learners

  • : simple or plain : not fancy

  • of a person : having a serious and unfriendly quality

  • : having few pleasures : simple and harsh

AUSTERE Defined for Kids


adjective aus·tere \ ȯ-ˈstir \

Definition of austere for Students

1 : seeming or acting serious and unfriendly
  • an austere family
2 : 1plain 1
  • an austere room



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