\ˈdərth \

Definition of dearth 

1 : scarcity that makes dear specifically : famine

2 : an inadequate supply : lack a dearth of evidence

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for dearth


absence, lack, want



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

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 Despite a dearth of knowledge about any of the Democratic candidates, voters who identify as Democrats are still more enthusiastic about voting in this year's elections than Republicans. Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "MU Poll: Republican Gov. Scott Walker leads Democratic rivals," 20 June 2018 The weather - sweltering and humid, with temperatures expected to reach the 90s before afternoon storms roll in - may result in thin crowds in what is already expected to be a low turnout election because of a dearth of contested races. Washington Post, "District voters head to the polls," 19 June 2018 No, because of the dearth of information available, which is a double-edged sword. Patricia R. Olsen, New York Times, "Portraying 18th-Century Black Men in Colonial Williamsburg," 8 June 2018 In addition, according to the Telegraph, Lake Abaya crocodiles have a reputation of aggression towards humans because of a dearth of fish caused by overfishing. Matthew Diebel, ajc, "Crocodile jumps from Ethiopian lake and kills pastor during mass baptism," 6 June 2018 In addition, according to the Telegraph, Lake Abaya crocodiles have a reputation of aggression towards humans because of a dearth of fish caused by overfishing. Matthew Diebel, USA TODAY, "Crocodile jumps from Ethiopian lake and kills pastor during mass baptism," 6 June 2018 Despite a dearth of major titles, Halep has been the tour’s best player since Serena went on maternity leave. The Si Staff,, "French Open 2018 Preview Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses, More," 23 May 2018 In all three cases, the creatures flourished beyond expectations, partly due to a dearth of natural predators, which has created large populations (around 4,000 oryx and 600 ibex) that are managed for hunting. Aaron Gulley, Outside Online, "Believe It or Not, You Can Safari in New Mexico," 16 Apr. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dearth

Listen to Our Podcast about dearth

Dictionary Entries near dearth



dearness allowance





Statistics for dearth

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dearth

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to reject or criticize sharply

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!