\ 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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Fortunately, Nepal may not be in quite such dire straits as Sri Lanka. Nicholas Gordon, Fortune, 29 Apr. 2022 To hear college football coaches tell it, the sport is in dire straits. Blake Toppmeyer, USA TODAY, 20 Apr. 2022 Forget the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup hopes; their chances of even surviving the first round were in dire straits. Gene Myers, Detroit Free Press, 18 Apr. 2022 Meanwhile, the Russian people, suffering in dire straits due to sanctions and the departure of many foreign companies from their country, may soon reach an economic breaking point. Frida Ghitis, CNN, 18 Apr. 2022 Preservationists say the building is a valuable piece of cultural and architectural history, and cited other historic Milwaukee buildings that were in dire straits before being redeveloped. Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12 Apr. 2022 But the sentiment Caruso is trying to convey — that the city is in dire straits, with a populace plagued by fear — is central to his insurgent campaign for mayor. Los Angeles Times, 3 Apr. 2022 Amid a nationwide shortage of veterinarians, animal hospitals and pet owners have at times found themselves in dire straits. Andres Picon, San Francisco Chronicle, 31 Mar. 2022 At the time of its vote, Exxon was still in dire straits from the pandemic, and had spent a decade annoying investors with expensive drilling gambles that left the company buried in debt. Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, 28 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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.

Learn More About dire

Dictionary Entries Near dire




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for dire

Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dire. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for dire


\ 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

More from Merriam-Webster on dire

Nglish: Translation of dire for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dire for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!