\ ˈdī(-ə)r How to pronounce dire (audio) \
direr; direst

Definition of dire

1a : exciting horror dire suffering
b : dismal, oppressive dire days
2 : warning of disaster a dire forecast
3a : desperately urgent in dire need of assistance
b : extreme dire poverty

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Other Words from dire

direly adverb
direness noun

Dire Straits and Furies

Dire and fury share a history in Roman mythology, as each of these words is connected to the Erinyes, the avenging and terrifying deities of ancient myth who tormented criminals. The Romans referred to these goddesses as either the Dirae or the Furiae. The former is from the Latin word dirus, from which dire is descended, and the latter comes from furere, from where we get fury. The word dire is often found in conjunction with straits; in dire straits is used of a situation that is very bad or difficult. Our records indicate that this phrase began to be used in English at the end of the 18th century, when it appeared in Francis Fawkes’s The Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius: “When now the heroes through the vast profound, Reach the dire straits with rocks encompass’d round.”

Examples of dire in a Sentence

The alleged threat posed by Yellowstone's 3,600 buffalo came from the fact that they carry brucella, a bacterium that cycles harmlessly enough in Bison bison but has considerably more dire effects on cattle. — Christopher Ketcham, Harper's, June 2008 Whether one is a lowly farmer or an urban worker, a student, professional, or a member of the elite, a meal is not complete unless rice is served to accompany the main viand of pork, fish, chicken, beef, vegetables or in the most dire circumstances, dry fish or salt. — Georgina R. Encanto, Food, April 2000 All wild tigers are threatened with extinction, but Sumatran tigers are in especially dire straits because the world's zoos have only 235 of them in captive-breeding programs. Audubon, November-December 1998 The circumstances are now more dire than ever. Some analysts are issuing dire economic forecasts. They live in dire poverty.
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Recent Examples on the Web State officials, forecasting dire impacts from the pandemic, projected that the state deficit would grow to $54bn over the coming fiscal year. The Economist, "How some American states’ finances have survived the pandemic," 17 Apr. 2021 McClenon’s prophecy of a desperate future exodus is rooted in dire American history. Washington Post, "In the galleries: Face to face with a world both beautiful and horrific," 16 Apr. 2021 To be spared the dire environmental impacts of our species is a privilege. Sarah Smarsh, The Atlantic, "The Human Side of Fracking," 16 Apr. 2021 Prasad says there's been a consistent bias toward pessimistic predictions, because in the epidemiology community, there's a sort of moral exemption for making overly dire forecasts. Faye Flam, Star Tribune, "An epidemic of unknowns," 15 Apr. 2021 The music may speak to dire times, but spirits were high. Craig Jenkins, Vulture, "Brockhampton Is Ready to Leave a Hell of a Legacy Behind," 14 Apr. 2021 President Joe Biden meets Republican and Democratic lawmakers as the White House amplifies the push for its $2.3 trillion package with the release of state-by-state breakdowns that show the dire shape of the nation's infrastructure. USA Today, "Biden's infrastructure plan calls for cities to limit single-family zoning and instead build affordable housing," 14 Apr. 2021 But since the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, those airstrikes have become much less frequent, occurring only in the most dire of situations. New York Times, "Afghans Wonder ‘What About Us?’ as U.S. Troops Prepare to Withdraw," 14 Apr. 2021 Such dire conditions, exacerbated by two Category 4 hurricanes within two weeks last year and now a raging pandemic, have combined to propel millions of migrants northward to the United States. Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times, "Kamala Harris faces diplomatic pitfalls in tackling migration from Central America," 14 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dire.' 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 dire

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dire

borrowed from Latin dīrus "(of omens) exciting horror, awful, (of physical or nonphysical things) inspiring terror, dreadful," probably going back to *dweiro-, going back to Indo-European *du̯ei̯-ro- or *du̯ei̯-so-, adjectival derivatives of the verbal base *du̯ei- "fear" — more at deinonychus

Note: The regular outcome of pre-Latin *dweiros would be *bīrus in Latin, which has led to speculation that the word has been borrowed from another Italic language. This hypothesis appears to be supported by a remark in the expanded version of the commentary on the Aeneid by the grammarian Servius, that the word dīrus was used by the Sabines and Umbrians.

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Last Updated

20 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dire. Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for dire



English Language Learners Definition of dire

: very bad : causing great fear or worry
: warning of disaster : showing a very bad future
: requiring immediate action : very urgent


\ ˈdīr How to pronounce dire (audio) \
direr; direst

Kids Definition of dire

1 : causing horror or worry : dreadful a dire warning
2 : very urgent or serious in dire need

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More from Merriam-Webster on dire

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dire

Nglish: Translation of dire for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dire for Arabic Speakers

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