\ ˈdī(-ə)r \
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

The insurance contracts Blackstone took out, known as credit-default swaps, typically pay out when a company defaults, usually reflecting dire financial straits. Tory Newmyer, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Voters already fear economic pain from Trump's trade war," 9 July 2018 The United States has laid much of the blame for Gaza’s dire straits at the feet of the authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas. New York Times, "Unable to Stop Flaming Kites, Israel Moves to Choke Off Gaza Commerce," 9 July 2018 The insurance contracts Blackstone took out, known as credit-default swaps, typically pay out when a company defaults, usually reflecting dire financial straits. Andrew Scurria, WSJ, "How Regulators Averted a Debacle in Credit-Default Swaps," 8 July 2018 The Walker administration’s move on CAFOs comes as large farms have grown and many smaller dairy farmers find themselves in dire straits. Lee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Dairy group uses behind-the-scenes influence with Gov. Scott Walker to shift regulation of large livestock farms," 6 July 2018 Saving people from dire straits is Richard Saul’s specialty. Lindsay Peyton, Houston Chronicle, "With countless Harvey rescues, firefighter keeps pushing through," 29 June 2018 Of course, one concern for any population in such dire straits is genetic health. Robbie George, National Geographic, "Rule to Allow Hunting Could Doom Rare Red Wolves," 29 June 2018 With a replacement for Mihajlovic set to be announced on Monday, according to the club's hierarchy, the new man in charge will have his work cut out to fix a side who are in dire straits. SI.com, "Sporting CP's Crisis Worsens After Club Sack Sinisa Mihajlovic After Only 9 Days as Manager," 28 June 2018 Their conflict dates to a 2014 law that tried to save the Kern Medical Center, a county-run hospital that was in dire financial straits. Adam Ashton, sacbee, "With court case looming, California unions pack state budget with labor goodies," 22 June 2018

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

Latin dirus; akin to Greek deinos terrifying, Sanskrit dveṣṭi he hates

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Phrases Related to dire

in dire straits

Statistics for dire

Last Updated

13 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for dire

The first known use of dire was in 1565

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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 \
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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Comments on dire

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