\ ˈdərth How to pronounce dearth (audio) \

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 John Fromson, vice chairman for community psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said a dearth of child care options remained a widespread problem. New York Times, "When the Surgeon Is a Mom," 20 Dec. 2019 Because the basin has little oxygen and a dearth of plants and animals, the ocean floor has remained relatively undisturbed. oregonlive, "Ocean waters off West Coast acidifying at twice the rate of global average, NOAA researcher finds," 16 Dec. 2019 Richard Iffert, Eagan A dearth of defense Part of the surplus should be spent on beefing up the public defender system. Letter Writers, Twin Cities, "Letters: Budget surplus? Expect new programs of questionable merit that will live forever," 11 Dec. 2019 But probably not the Hurley: At least $200 million in renovations would be required to modernize the building, work that still wouldn’t address flaws such as an inefficient layout and a dearth of windows on the top floor., "adorn the lobby walls.," 11 Dec. 2019 The absence of any female directors among those nominees, and a noted dearth of people of color especially on the TV side, also stood out. Brian Lowry, CNN, "Netflix gets a bear hug from the Golden Globes, hoping the Oscars come next," 9 Dec. 2019 But in the scientific community, a dearth of longer-term data has led to some disagreement over the degree and causes of the warming, especially before satellite data became available in 1982. Max Bearak, Washington Post, "A crisis in the water is decimating this once-booming fishing town," 27 Nov. 2019 Amidst all the job woes for immigrants in the US due to Donald Trump’s work visa clampdown, there’s still no dearth of Indian students taking their dreams there. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Trump’s visa clampdown hasn’t stopped Indian students from pursuing their US dreams," 19 Nov. 2019 Little has yet been done, however, to remedy a dearth of investigations for insurance fraud. The Economist, "Ireland’s insurance premiums have rocketed," 14 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for dearth

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

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Last Updated

6 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dearth.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for dearth


How to pronounce dearth (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dearth

formal : the state or condition of not having enough of something


\ ˈdərth How to pronounce dearth (audio) \

Kids Definition of dearth

: scarcity, lack There was a dearth of news.

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More from Merriam-Webster on dearth

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dearth

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dearth

Spanish Central: Translation of dearth

Nglish: Translation of dearth for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dearth for Arabic Speakers

Comments on dearth

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to insert between existing elements

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