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 For Lebanon, though, that decade’s defining event was not flu but famine: years of hunger that killed half the population during the first world war. The Economist, "Devaluation gardens Hobbyists hope to halt hunger in Lebanon by growing their own crops," 28 May 2020 Last year, for example, Han Sung-ok and her son, who had fled famine in the North, died of starvation on arrival in the South. NBC News, "TV drama on forbidden love casts spotlight on life in North Korea," 23 May 2020 Places with thin safety nets, such as India, may face unprecedented famine. Vinay Prasad, STAT, "Covid-19, a ‘supernova in human history,’ will need multiple perspectives to understand and manage," 14 May 2020 And then, at last, as if ice and cold and famine weren’t enough, came the bubonic plague. Jon Meacham, New York Times, "Pandemics of the Past," 7 May 2020 A decade of freelancer feast or famine cycles have prepared him for this moment. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit portrait photographer Noah Stephens reframes for an era of social distancing," 26 Apr. 2020 The feast-or-famine theatrical indie film market has become even more challenging in recent years as studio blockbusters take up more of the box office oxygen. cleveland, "Sundance 2020 may not match last year’s deal frenzy: Here’s why," 23 Jan. 2020 Since civil war broke out in Yemen in 2015, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly as a result of the conflict, but also due to the subsequent famine, poor sanitation and a lack of clean water, according to the United Nations. Tara Law, Time, "The Climate Crisis is Global, but These 6 Places Face the Most Severe Consequences," 30 Sep. 2019 Fire seasons are running longer, storms are getting stronger, and drought leading to famine is forcing people from their homes to seek sanctuary across borders. BostonGlobe.com, "Older generations broke the climate. It’s up to young people to fix it - The Boston Globe," 18 Sep. 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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Time Traveler for famine

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for famine

Last Updated

3 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Famine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/famine. Accessed 6 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for famine


How to pronounce famine (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of famine

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


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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