hun·​ger | \ˈhəŋ-gər \

Definition of hunger 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient

b : an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food The small meal wasn't enough to satisfy his hunger.

c : a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food died of hunger

2 : a strong desire : craving a hunger for success

from hunger

: very bad or inept the jokes were from hunger— Mordecai Richler


hungered; hungering\ˈhəŋ-​g(ə-​)riŋ \

Definition of hunger (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to feel or suffer hunger (see hunger entry 1) feasting while the poor hunger

2 : to have an eager desire The nation hungers for a strong leader.

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Synonyms & Antonyms for hunger

Synonyms: Noun

appetite, belly, emptiness, famishment, munchies, stomach

Antonyms: Noun


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Choose the Right Synonym for hunger


long, yearn, hanker, pine, hunger, thirst mean to have a strong desire for something. long implies a wishing with one's whole heart and often a striving to attain. longed for some rest yearn suggests an eager, restless, or painful longing. yearned for a stage career hanker suggests the uneasy promptings of unsatisfied appetite or desire. always hankering for money pine implies a languishing or a fruitless longing for what is impossible. pined for a lost love hunger and thirst imply an insistent or impatient craving or a compelling need. hungered for a business of his own thirsted for power

Examples of hunger in a Sentence


She has been a leader in the fight against world hunger. One sandwich wasn't enough to satisfy his hunger. Her students have a genuine hunger for knowledge.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Most nights dinner is flung together between 6:47 and 7 p.m. after the baby is asleep and before the two older kids have lost it from hunger. Chloe Schama, Vogue, "Putting Ottolenghi’s New Cookbook, Simple, to the Test," 4 Oct. 2018 The Fifth Street moms and dads, many of whom come from Puerto Rico, will not acknowledge that anyone suffers from hunger. Alfred Lubrano,, "Fighting summer hunger block by block, lunch by lunch," 20 June 2018 In post-war Germany, food and material goods were so scarce that people dropped dead in the streets from hunger. Pam Kragen,, "Couple raised under Hitler cherishes their American Dream," 6 Apr. 2018 Many arrive weak from hunger and with no money for a hotel, food, or the $9 bus ride to Boa Vista, the capital of the Brazilian state of Roraima, known in Venezuelan circles as a place that offers three meals a day. Peter Prengaman, The Christian Science Monitor, "Desperate Venezuelans flood northern Brazil," 20 Mar. 2018 Sidra says her daughter fainted twice in the past week from hunger and panic. Raja Abdulrahim, WSJ, "Families Go Underground to Survive Syrian Regime’s Bombs," 5 Mar. 2018 Harte and Porter spoke at the kickoff breakfast about the impact of hunger on their communities. Brittany Nader,, "Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank hosts largest Harvest for Hunger Campaign Kickoff Breakfast," 15 Feb. 2018 The seas were high, the wind against them, hunger spread, disease followed. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "The Pilgrims Take Manhattan," 21 Nov. 2018 The Potential Benefits of Fasting More Purposeful Eating: The biggest advantage stems from the fact many of us eat based on the scenario, not hunger levels. Good Housekeeping, "Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting, According to a Nutritionist," 11 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The liberal sees his virtue in speaking up for the underdog, hungering for social justice, showing a spirit of empathy. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "There’s Too Much Virtue in Politics," 31 July 2018 The serial worrier in me can’t resist issuing a stern caution to those who hunger for the modern-day Transaction Game as much as (or more than) the game itself. Marc Stein, New York Times, "The N.B.A. Has the Hottest Stove. LeBron James Is the Flame.," 30 June 2018 But a screw-up that caused the landmark film to enter the public domain has provided some room for other authors to put their own spin on the undead hungering for human flesh. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "AMC's 'Fear the Walking Dead' Is Target of Copyright Lawsuit," 27 June 2018 Someone who sold himself as a common man but hungered to live — above his means, if necessary — like a high roller. Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, "Uresti was a great story that turned tragic," 20 June 2018 Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin do good work as the sons who fight for power within Waystar Royco while hungering for their father’s approval, as does Sarah Snook as their sister, a political consultant who watches from the sidelines. Mike Hale, New York Times, "Review: In HBO’s ‘Succession,’ the Family That Preys Together," 1 June 2018 The works had only two things in common: Readers hungered for them, and each had been designated contraband by the Communist Party’s Central Leading Group for Propaganda and Ideology. Alex W. Palmer, New York Times, "The Case of Hong Kong’s Missing Booksellers," 3 Apr. 2018 Fujifilm chairman and CEO Shigetaka Komori has hungered to buy Xerox for decades. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Paper Jam! How Carl Icahn And a Billionaire Partner Blocked Xerox’s Merger with Fujifilm," 21 May 2018 Certain readers will hunger as well for sharper and more debatable insights about range management and the West. Nathan Deuel,, "True grit in the modern American West: 'The Last Cowboys' by John Branch," 10 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hunger.' 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 hunger


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for hunger


Middle English, from Old English hungor; akin to Old High German hungar hunger, Lithuanian kanka torture


see hunger entry 1

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Statistics for hunger

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for hunger

The first known use of hunger was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for hunger



English Language Learners Definition of hunger

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a very great need for food : a severe lack of food

: an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach that is caused by the need for food

: a strong desire : a strong desire for something or to do something



English Language Learners Definition of hunger (Entry 2 of 2)

: to have or feel a strong desire


hun·​ger | \ˈhəŋ-gər \

Kids Definition of hunger

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a desire or a need for food

2 : a strong desire a hunger for knowledge


hungered; hungering

Kids Definition of hunger (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to feel a desire or need for food

2 : to have a strong desire He hungered to return home.


hun·​ger | \ˈhəŋ-gər \

Medical Definition of hunger 

1 : a craving, desire, or urgent need for food

2 : an uneasy sensation occasioned normally by the lack of food and resulting directly from stimulation of the sensory nerves of the stomach by the contraction and churning movement of the empty stomach

3 : a weakened disordered condition brought about by prolonged lack of food die of hunger

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More from Merriam-Webster on hunger

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hunger

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hunger

Spanish Central: Translation of hunger

Nglish: Translation of hunger for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hunger for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about hunger

Comments on hunger

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


living or existing for a long time

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