\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 Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams explores the dire state of the American criminal justice system in this documentary. Andrew R. Chow, New York Times, "What’s on TV Sunday: A Baseball Rivalry and ‘Recovery Boys’," 1 July 2018 Alas, in one of the show’s many cool ironies, Philip bowed to a capitalist system that, given the dire state of Dupont Circle Travel, denied him success. Matthew Gilbert, BostonGlobe.com, "Why I’m going to miss ‘The Americans’," 24 May 2018 Their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over the isolated nation's nuclear weapons. Matthew Lee And Zeke Miller, Fox News, "Freed detainees head home for big welcome, featuring Trump," 11 May 2018 Their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over the isolated nation’s nuclear weapons. Washington Post, "Freed detainees head home for big welcome, featuring Trump," 9 May 2018 The case has underscored the dire state of press freedom in Turkey. Bard Wilkinson, CNN, "Turkish court sentences journalists to years in prison for 'terrorism' charges," 26 Apr. 2018 The clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinians coupled with the dire state of the Gazan economy have raised international concerns of another round of major fighting between Hamas and Israel. Yantoultra Ngui, WSJ, "Hamas Blames Israel for Alleged Assassination of One of Its Members," 22 Apr. 2018 But in the wake of flooding last Aug. 5, Landrieu has taken some of the strongest heat of his eight-year tenure for not knowing the dire state of the city's drainage pumps and power turbines before the heavy rains fell. Beau Evans, NOLA.com, "Should Sewerage & Water Board be part of City Hall? 'I wouldn't do it,' Landrieu says," 19 Apr. 2018 Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon, in particular, seem likely to leave the club at the end of the season, given the dire state of affairs. SI.com, "West Ham Fans Hype Up Potential Signing of West Brom Star as Transfer Window Approaches," 16 Apr. 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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Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for dire

The first known use of dire was in 1565

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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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