: scarcity that makes dear
specifically : famine
: 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.) Dearth, in one form or another, 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
Recent Examples on the Web The dearth of EVs for sale that EV shoppers want has pushed them to hybrids, Caldwell said. Medora Lee, USA TODAY, 3 Apr. 2024 Data collection isn’t just for researchers–travelers are often perfectly suited to help bolster the dearth of data to be documented across scientific disciplines around the world. Alisha McDarris, Popular Science, 20 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for dearth 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dearth.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near dearth

Cite this Entry

“Dearth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.

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