fam·​ine ˈfa-mən How to pronounce famine (audio)
: an extreme scarcity of food
The famine affected most of the country.
archaic : starvation
archaic : a ravenous appetite
: a great shortage
Transportation problems resulted in a coal famine.

Examples of famine in a Sentence

The famine affected half the continent. millions killed by war, drought, and famine
Recent Examples on the Web Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested that Saturday’s large drone assault was timed to coincide with the day on which Ukrainians commemorate the Holodomor, the famine engineered by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in the early 1930s that killed millions of Ukrainians. Kostiantyn Khudov, Washington Post, 25 Nov. 2023 It’s been feast or famine for the Lions defense of late. Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Nov. 2023 The mortgage industry is notoriously feast or famine, but there’s no obvious way out of this bust David Siegel went to work for an affiliate of Guaranteed Rate in 2021 and got a signing bonus of more than $100,000. Andrew Ackerman, WSJ, 28 Oct. 2023 Friel is unsubtle about this: the famine will arrive in just a few years, and characters are already worried about the possibility of blight. Helen Shaw, The New Yorker, 3 Nov. 2023 Climate change has devastated the land: the Earth is covered in smog; crops have withered; countries are caving to famine. Katherine Hu, The Atlantic, 5 Oct. 2023 Live Aid saw 70 artists perform in front of an audience of 1.5 billion tuning in from across the globe, and raised $127 million for famine relief. Sadie Bell, Peoplemag, 2 Oct. 2023 The magazine is part of a growing community that has been systematically documenting the party’s misrule, from past famines to the COVID pandemic. Ian Johnson, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023 New insights into the potato famine in Ireland were revealed, as well as the oppression of the Choctaw Nation. Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near famine

Cite this Entry

“Famine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/famine. Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


fam·​ine ˈfam-ən How to pronounce famine (audio)
: an extreme general shortage of food
: a great shortage

More from Merriam-Webster on famine

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