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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Whereas his previous book was decidedly austere in presentation, evoking the monochromatic sobriety of a black and white Bergman film, this new one is more like Fellini. Elizabeth Nelson, Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2022 Where to Stay Willow House founder Lauren Werner settled in the Chihuahuan desert of far west Texas to create an austere, cool, and comforting oasis for artists and others longing for open spaces and an unbridled night sky. Stephanie Pearson, Outside Online, 2 Nov. 2022 Reports of more austere measures under Musk – including laying off 75% of the company’s 7,500 workers – circulated before the deal closed. Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY, 28 Oct. 2022 Pallaoro presumably wants to make things easier on us, and yet, his austere and occasionally alienating style doesn’t necessarily help. Peter Debruge, Variety, 3 Sep. 2022 That means investors must anticipate a potentially even more austere market environment in coming months. Karen Langley, WSJ, 14 May 2022 The two-person cockpit is a bit austere but with plenty of room for elbows and good forward vision. Robert Ross, Robb Report, 25 Aug. 2022 No longer an austere corner of the industry, streamers are paying bigger fees for documentaries, often about $1.5 million per an hour episode — up from $750,000 an hour just a few years ago. Meg James, Los Angeles Times, 23 Sep. 2022 In traditional Asian societies, and also under the austere rule of Chairman Mao, it would have been considered rude and anti-social to douse oneself in cologne. Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

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 4 Dec. 2022.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on austere

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