\ˈdərth \

Definition of dearth 

1 : scarcity that makes dear specifically : famine

2 : an inadequate supply : lack a dearth of evidence

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Where does the word dearth come from?

The facts about the history of the word dearth are quite simple: the word derives from the Middle English form "derthe," which has the same meaning as our modern term. That Middle English form is assumed to have developed from an Old English form that was probably spelled "dierth" and was related to "dēore," the Old English form that gave us the word dear. ("Dear" also once meant "scarce," but that sense of the word is now obsolete.) Some form of "dearth" has been used to describe things that are in short supply since at least the 13th century, when it often referred to a shortage of food.

Examples of dearth in a Sentence

It may also be a respite for booksellers, who have been grumbling for several years about sluggish sales and a dearth of dependable blockbuster fiction. — Julie Bosman, New York Times, 19 Oct. 2006 … Earnhardt has recently hinted that a company-wide dearth of talent is the core reason his Chevy simply isn't as fast in 2005 as it's been in the past. — Lars Anderson, Sports Illustrated, 11 Apr. 2006 AirNet, which hauls bank checks and other time-critical freight, used to require that its pilots have at least 1,200 hours of flight experience. Then, faced with a dearth of experienced applicants, it dropped the requirement to 500 hours. Now, it has no minimum. — Scott McCartney, Wall Street Journal, 10 Aug. 2000 there was a dearth of usable firewood at the campsite the dearth of salesclerks at the shoe store annoyed us
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Recent Examples on the Web

The widening gap comes despite a relative dearth of new bond sales from U.S. companies, a sign that investors’ demand has slowed faster than supply. Sam Goldfarb, WSJ, "Debt-Market Slowdown Troubles Investors," 18 Nov. 2018 From a lack of star power to a noticeable dearth of the usual promotional billboards along the Croisette, the world's most prestigious film fest looked — and felt — much different this year. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "What Matters in Hollywood Today," 14 May 2018 Their dearth of technology workers put them at an insurmountable disadvantage. Janet Adamy, WSJ, "Big Cities’ Success Reflects Deepening Urban-Rural Divide," 14 Nov. 2018 Samsung's solution to its dearth of viable apps is to plug into some third-party apps, like Yelp, Uber, Spotify, and Ticketmaster. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Galaxy Note9 hands-on—Samsung ships a bigger battery, not much else," 9 Aug. 2018 The Fighters does have a disappointing dearth of females, even though women were active in areas of operation. Matt Young, Popular Mechanics, "In 'The Fighters,' A Pulitzer Prize–Winning War Reporter Strips Iraq and Afghanistan to the Bone," 9 Aug. 2018 Given the dearth of success for Japan in the women's game, Osaka has also captured the attention of the country, which has not produced a female player in the world top 10 since 2004. Sandy Thin, CNN, "Naomi Osaka sweeps aside idol Serena Williams in Miami Open," 22 Mar. 2018 That move, combined with the dearth of Sanders' briefings of late, send a very specific message: This White House is moving toward less interaction with the media, not more. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "MISSING: The White House press briefing," 23 May 2018 But so far not many are clicking the download button, mainly because of the dearth of services that allow such data to be uploaded. The Economist, "A new school in ChicagoHow regulators can prevent excessive concentration online," 28 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of dearth

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dearth

Middle English derthe, from Old English *dierth, from dēore dear

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Dictionary Entries near dearth



dearness allowance





Statistics for dearth

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for dearth

The first known use of dearth was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for dearth



English Language Learners Definition of dearth

: the state or condition of not having enough of something


\ˈdərth \

Kids Definition of dearth

: scarcity, lack There was a dearth of news.

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More from Merriam-Webster on dearth

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dearth

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dearth

Spanish Central: Translation of dearth

Nglish: Translation of dearth for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dearth for Arabic Speakers

Comments on dearth

What made you want to look up dearth? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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