\ 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

Another challenge is the dearth of qualified individuals willing to take the job. Peter Nicholas, WSJ, "White House Digs In for Chief of Staff Hunt," 10 Dec. 2018 Both New York City and Washington, DC, are currently suffering from a dearth of affordable housing. Gaby Del Valle, Vox, "Amazon HQ2: New York City and Arlington, Virginia, selected, reports say," 6 Nov. 2018 Still, Bernstein and Turban write that, up until now, there has been a dearth of data on how employee behaviors change in these boundless, despised work spaces. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Open offices are as bad as they seem—they reduce face-to-face time by 70%," 13 July 2018 But your body will react to the dearth of fuel in various ways. Zahra Barnes, SELF, "Skipping Meals: What Happens When You're Not Eating Enough," 4 Jan. 2019 Contributing to the dearth of chips is Intel’s focus on the booming server market, its growing business of putting modem chips in Apple Inc. Eliot Brown, WSJ, "Intel Chip Shortage Ripples Through PC Industry," 28 Sep. 2018 But these examinations are limited and imperfect, due to the dearth of useful intelligence. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "It's Nearly Impossible to Hold North Korea to Nuclear Promises," 11 June 2018 That has led to a dearth of skilled laborers — including electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers, steel workers and carpenters — for upcoming projects, thereby leading to higher costs. Martin E. Comas,, "Sanford airport expansion project cost jumps nearly 40 percent to $60.6M," 28 Mar. 2018 The Patriots, on the other hand, had been poor against the run due to a dearth of front-seven talent on the roster. Steven Ruiz, For The Win, "Benching Malcolm Butler was another stroke of genius from Bill Belichick ... in theory," 6 Feb. 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

14 Apr 2019

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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

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

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).


one that collects or salvages junk

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