famine

noun
fam·​ine | \ ˈfa-mən How to pronounce famine (audio) \

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

That would trigger a worse conflict and widespread famine. Fox News, "UAE fast withdrawing from controversial Yemen war," 13 July 2019 Big airlifts began in the 1980s, when Ethiopia suffered tyranny and famine. The Economist, "The killing of a black Jew sparks protests in Israel," 11 July 2019 Interim Archives/Getty Images During the Revolutionary War, the Oneida allies of the revolutionary army walked hundreds of miles from their homeland in what is now upstate New York to relieve the famine at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78. Time Staff, Time, "15 Unsung Moments From American History That Historians Say You Should Know About," 28 June 2019 There are currently tens of millions of people in at least half a dozen subsistence-farming countries facing famine. Sean Illing, Vox, "The climate crisis and the end of the golden era of food choice," 24 June 2019 Human rights advocates warn of a recurrence of the mid-1990s famine that killed as many as 3 million people if conditions fail to improve. Martin Kuz, The Christian Science Monitor, "In N. Korea nuclear talks, what about human rights?," 20 June 2019 The vast majority of Hong Kong residents fled persecution, political chaos or poverty and famine on the Chinese mainland. Washington Post, "Hong Kong protesters slam leader’s apology, demand she quit," 19 June 2019 Rizpah watched over the bodies, protecting them from scavenging birds and animals until the rain came, signalling the end of the famine. National Geographic, "King David’s rise to power cost one woman everything," 2 Apr. 2019 Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, which has killed thousands of people, created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and brought Yemen to the brink of famine. Washington Post, "UN report: 7,500 kids killed or wounded in Yemen since 2013," 29 June 2019

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

16 Jul 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

famine

noun

English Language Learners Definition of famine

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

famine

noun
fam·​ine | \ ˈfa-mən How to pronounce famine (audio) \

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

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