adjective \ ˈdī(-ə)r \
|Updated on: 16 Aug 2018

Definition of dire

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





Examples of dire in a Sentence

  1. 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 KetchamHarper'sJune 2008
  2. 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. EncantoFoodApril 2000
  3. 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. AudubonNovember-December 1998
  4. The circumstances are now more dire than ever.

  5. Some analysts are issuing dire economic forecasts.

  6. They live in dire poverty.

Recent Examples of dire from the Web

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.

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.”

Origin and Etymology of dire

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

DIRE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of dire for English Language Learners

  • : very bad : causing great fear or worry

  • : warning of disaster : showing a very bad future

  • : requiring immediate action : very urgent

DIRE Defined for Kids


adjective \ ˈdīr \

Definition of dire for Students

direr; direst
1 : causing horror or worry : dreadful
  • a dire warning
2 : very urgent or serious
  • in dire need

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