\ 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 In December, the county — the ninth-largest in the U.S. — recorded its deadliest week, a single-day high for new cases, and a dangerous dearth of intensive care hospital beds. Nic Garcia, Dallas News, "Despite critics, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins remains steadfast on COVID response," 31 Dec. 2020 That approach obscured gaps, such as the dearth of Latino employees in the upper ranks and how few people of color worked in certain business segments. Ruth Simon, WSJ, "‘There Was a Piece Missing—We Were All White’: One Bank Targets Racial Inequity," 29 Dec. 2020 Airlines have been ravaged by the pandemic amid the dearth of both travelers and federal support. Tyler Van Dyke, Washington Examiner, "Christmas travel brings out most air passengers since early days of pandemic," 24 Dec. 2020 Moreover, India’s hardly the blue-eyed prince of manufacturing given weak infrastructure and a dearth of vocational training. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Modi’s Make in India revolution is coming at the cost of Indian factory workers," 23 Dec. 2020 Lauren Gardner, an engineering professor at Johns Hopkins University who has studied dengue and Zika, knew that new epidemics are accompanied by a dearth of real-time data. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, "How Science Beat the Virus," 17 Dec. 2020 This enthusiasm reflects the ever-growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a dearth of new antibiotics available to fight them. Nicola Twilley, The New Yorker, "When a Virus Is the Cure," 14 Dec. 2020 Frontline doctors have had to make do with limited resources and a dearth of health tools. Nathalie Strub-wourgaft, STAT, "Now is the time to innovate for more than 1 billion people with neglected tropical diseases," 24 Nov. 2020 Officials were supposed to bring back a group of third- through fifth-graders with disabilities last week, but did not go ahead with that plan due to a dearth of staffing and insufficient building space, according to spokeswoman Helen Lloyd. Washington Post, "Alexandria City Public Schools switches back to online learning until early 2021," 24 Nov. 2020

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

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dearth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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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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