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

Food production improved, though never on a scale that would ward off the periodic famines that were considered—by nationalist Indians and sensitive Britons alike—as blots on the Raj. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "‘Unruly Waters’ and ‘Ganges’ Review: In India, Water Is Politics," 4 Jan. 2019 That, potentially, would lead to widespread famine in a matter of years. Alex Ward, Vox, "This is exactly how a nuclear war would kill you," 19 Oct. 2018 Kowal creates an alternate space race that’s running not against the Soviet Union (which collapsed due to famine in this history), but against the coming changes in the Earth’s climate. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "The Lady Astronaut novels are an enthralling alternate history of the space race," 22 Aug. 2018 Millions are near famine and aid delivery is often blocked in one of the world's most dangerous countries for humanitarian workers. Fox News, "Sudan says South Sudan rival leaders reach deal on security," 7 July 2018 Millions are near famine and aid delivery is often blocked in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for humanitarian workers. Sam Mednick, The Seattle Times, "South Sudan wants to extend president’s term until 2021," 3 July 2018 Tens of thousands have been killed in South Sudan's five-year civil war, which erupted two years after independence from Sudan and has created Africa's largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and left millions near famine. Sam Mednick, The Christian Science Monitor, "South Sudanese cease-fire brings hope, skepticism for conflict's end," 28 June 2018 Had fighting continued, food to half of Yemen’s population on the brink of famine could have been interrupted. Farnaz Fassihi, WSJ, "U.N. Security Council Votes to Send Monitors to Yemen," 16 Jan. 2019 The Associated Press has reported from areas of Yemen that are on the brink of famine. Samy Magdy, The Seattle Times, "Aid group: 85,000 children may have died of hunger in Yemen," 21 Nov. 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

12 Feb 2019

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on famine

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with famine

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for famine

Spanish Central: Translation of famine

Nglish: Translation of famine for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of famine for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about famine

Comments on famine

What made you want to look up famine? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to deny responsibility for

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