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 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 Lee is mostly worried about her mother, who mourns seven brothers and sisters lost to famine and political crackdowns over the years. Brian Murphy, chicagotribune.com, "Outspoken North Korean defectors allow themselves to wonder: Could they really go home again?," 10 June 2018 But as Halloran points out, that number doesn't even take into account the nuclear winter that could devastate crops around the world and lead to a massive famine after such a war. Sophie Weiner, Popular Mechanics, "How Many People Would Die in an All-Out Nuclear War?," 11 Aug. 2017 Southeast Asian American refugees have survived war, famine and genocide. NBC News, "Soldier in the Secret War recalls experience 45 years after resettling in U.S.," 30 Apr. 2020 Hundreds of millions from China, India and other lands have escaped famine and want and acquired stakes in a global economy in which all agree that a nuclear war would be bad for business. John A. Farrell, New York Times, "How Do You Explain Henry Kissinger?," 28 Apr. 2020 Schools have always strived to remain open during wars, famines and even storms. The Economist, "Closing schools for covid-19 does lifelong harm and widens inequality," 27 Apr. 2020

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

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Famine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/famine. Accessed 3 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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