\ 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 Here are just a few statistics that help illustrate how dire the problem is: *About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last year. Kimberly Leonard, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Healthcare: Klobuchar brings up the long-term care crisis as a debate issue," 15 Jan. 2020 Although their findings are dire, the authors believe the results could improve how species’ vulnerability is assessed with subsequent benefits for other areas of conservation. Fox News, "Humanity's footprint is squashing the world's wildlife," 14 Jan. 2020 Eubank's camerawork often puts audiences inside Norah's helmet, playing up just how dire their circumstances are with the fiendish suggestion its glass might crack at any point. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "What to Watch (and Skip) in Theaters and on HBO This Weekend," 10 Jan. 2020 While the funding for Viasat could certainly improve access for some people, the project helps illustrate how dire the broadband shortage is in rural parts of many states. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "No-fiber zone: FCC funds 25Mbps, data-capped satellite in rural areas," 17 Dec. 2019 The consequences for making such threats may be dire. Madeline Mitchell, Cincinnati.com, "Police: 14-year-old planned to 'shoot up the school' in Butler County, Ohio," 13 Dec. 2019 The Orioles will probably take another infielder or a pitcher with their top pick this year, considering how dire their need is at those spots. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "Five things to watch as the Orioles begin their business at baseball’s winter meetings," 9 Dec. 2019 Last week, as supporters were there for Benson, the outlook was dire for Ann. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, Indianapolis Star, "IU basketball 'gentle giant' Kent Benson battling devastating losses," 26 Nov. 2019 The franchise is in dire need of impact hitters, either as an inexperienced major leaguer or a top prospect in the minors. Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Why Detroit Tigers' Matthew Boyd is staying put — for now," 29 Dec. 2019

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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Statistics for dire

Last Updated

18 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dire.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/direst. Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for dire

How to pronounce dire (audio)

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dire

Spanish Central: Translation of dire

Nglish: Translation of dire for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dire for Arabic Speakers

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