fam·ine | \ ˈfa-mən \

Definition of famine 

1 : an extreme scarcity of food The famine affected most of the country.

2 archaic : starvation

3 archaic : a ravenous appetite

4 : a great shortage Transportation problems resulted in a coal famine.

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Examples of famine in a Sentence

The famine affected half the continent. millions killed by war, drought, and famine

Recent Examples on the Web

Irish immigrants fleeing the terrible famine of the 1840s filled up Corktown and gave the district its name from the city and county in Ireland. John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press, "Here's what you might not know about Corktown's history," 9 July 2018 But after a severe, prolonged famine in the North in the mid-1990s, the TB bacterium spread rapidly among malnourished survivors. Richard Stone, Science | AAAS, "Major donor nixes effort to combat tuberculosis crisis in North Korea," 29 June 2018 German retribution against Dutch railway workers who went on strike to aid the assault led to a famine that killed over 20,000. The Economist, "Anthony Beevor’s new history of Arnhem," 24 May 2018 The country has accepted more than 31,000 North Korean defectors, including about 4,500 children, since the peak of a crippling famine in 1998. NBC News, "They escaped Kim Jong Un. Now these young North Korean defectors just want to grow up.," 30 Mar. 2018 Food supplies quickly dwindled, resulting in near famine in some areas. Dawn Mitchell, Indianapolis Star, "RetroIndy: 1913 floods," 22 Mar. 2016 This is, of course, an artificial scarcity; America is not in famine. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Perpetuating the Cycle of Poverty," 17 Apr. 2018 The conflict has pitted Mr. Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group against Mr. Machar’s Nuer community, leaving more than 50,000 people dead and pushing millions to the brink of famine. Nicholas Bariyo, WSJ, "South Sudan’s Exiled Former Vice President Offered Power-Sharing Deal," 8 July 2018 The general population, weakened by years of famine, died in droves. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Joanna of Naples," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'famine.' 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 famine

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for famine

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from feim, faim hunger, from Latin fames

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Statistics for famine

Last Updated

27 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for famine

The first known use of famine was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for famine



English Language Learners Definition of famine

: a situation in which many people do not have enough food to eat


fam·ine | \ ˈfa-mən \

Kids Definition of famine

: a very great shortage of food that affects many people over a wide area

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Comments on famine

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