direr; direst
1
a
: exciting horror
dire suffering
b
: dismal, oppressive
dire days
2
: warning of disaster
a dire forecast
3
a
: desperately urgent
in dire need of assistance
b
: extreme
dire poverty
direly adverb
direness noun

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web The humanitarian conditions in Gaza have also grown dire, with most Palestinians there displaced and aid groups warning of a famine. Erica L. Green, New York Times, 6 June 2024 Kids constantly hear about the downsides of social media from the adults in their lives, often in the form of dire warnings and commands. CBS News, 6 June 2024 The Department of Economic Opportunity’s lack of progress during a dire stretch for vendors, many of whom are Latino immigrants, has drawn fierce criticism from a prominent industry executive in private conversations with officials and at public meetings. Daniel Miller, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2024 The show has shifted most of its coverage to the war, featuring dispatches from Al Jazeera reporters about the increasingly dire humanitarian and security situation in the enclave. Ariel Shapiro, The Verge, 1 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for dire 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dire.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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.

First Known Use

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of dire was in 1565

Dictionary Entries Near dire

Cite this Entry

“Dire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dire. Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

dire

adjective
direr; direst
1
: causing horror : dreadful
dire suffering
2
: warning of disaster
a dire forecast
3
direly adverb
direness noun

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