mea·​ger | \ ˈmē-gər How to pronounce meager (audio) \
variants: or meagre

Definition of meager

1 : having little flesh : thin meager were his looks, sharp misery had worn him to the bones— William Shakespeare
2a : lacking desirable qualities (such as richness or strength) leading a meager life
b : deficient in quality or quantity a meager diet

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Other Words from meager

meagerly adverb
meagerness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for meager

meager, scanty, scant, skimpy, spare, sparse mean falling short of what is normal, necessary, or desirable. meager implies the absence of elements, qualities, or numbers necessary to a thing's richness, substance, or potency. a meager portion of meat scanty stresses insufficiency in amount, quantity, or extent. supplies too scanty to last the winter scant suggests a falling short of what is desired or desirable rather than of what is essential. in January the daylight hours are scant skimpy usually suggests niggardliness or penury as the cause of the deficiency. tacky housing developments on skimpy lots spare may suggest a slight falling short of adequacy or merely an absence of superfluity. a spare, concise style of writing sparse implies a thin scattering of units. a sparse population

Examples of meager in a Sentence

Every morning he eats a meager breakfast of toast and coffee. We'll have to do the best we can with this year's meager harvest. She came to this country with a fairly meager English vocabulary, but she is learning more words every day. They suffered through several meager years at the beginning of their marriage. Although she's now rich and famous, she remembers her meager beginnings as a child from a poor family.
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Recent Examples on the Web Off-the-line performance is meager, so merging onto a highway needs a little planning. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "The Hyundai Venue debuts for 2020 offering flash, not dash," 1 Feb. 2020 Nonprofits and the government will likely need to support companies not only in the process leading up to FDA approval, but also in the years afterward when revenues are meager. Megan Blewett, Fortune, "How to Cure the Antibiotic Industry’s Profitability Infection," 14 Nov. 2019 Even after building a gleaming multimillion-dollar downtown arena that opened in 2017, attendance was meager. Shannon Ryan,, "DePaul stays perfect at 9-0 with a 65-60 overtime thriller against Texas Tech: ‘We’re starting to see the bloom’," 3 Dec. 2019 Kinship assistance is meager compared with what foster parents receive. Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic, "'Life would have been a lot simpler': He thought adopting grandkids would save them. He spent years trying," 4 Dec. 2019 While the mountains could get 6 to 8-inches through Friday the snow total for Denver and the plains is expected to be meager, Sullivan said. Tom Mcghee, The Denver Post, "Denver weather: Week begins with warm temperatures before rain, snow move in on Wednesday," 18 Nov. 2019 Contrary to Trump’s own statements, the Pentagon insists that the (comparably meager) revenue from the Syrian oil fields will not go to the United States or an American entity. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Trump’s perplexing insistence on ‘keeping’ Middle Eastern oil," 15 Nov. 2019 Average attendances in 2018-19 for the major European leagues were also meager: England (1,010), France (911) and Germany (833), according to Soccer America. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, "Soccer! The playoff matchup everyone wanted (Galaxy-LAFC) is almost here," 22 Oct. 2019 Ritchie logged a meager 8:06, including just a five-second twirl on the power play, and finished minus-2 in the 5-2 loss., "Bruins’ Brett Ritchie told to start faster out of the gate - The Boston Globe," 12 Dec. 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for meager

Middle English megre "thin, having little flesh from lack of food," borrowed from Anglo-French megre, maigre, going back to Latin macr-, macer "thin, lean, of little substance," going back to Indo-European *mh2ḱ-ro- "long, thin," whence also Germanic *magra- "lean" (whence Old English mæger "lean," Old High German magar, Old Norse magr), Greek makrós "long, tall, high, large"; derivative in *-ro-, adjective suffix, of a base *meh2ḱ-, *mh2ḱ- seen also in Latin maciēs "bodily thinness, wasting," Greek mêkos "length," mḗkistos "longest, highest," Avestan masah- "length, greatness," masišta- "highest," Hittite maklant- "thin, slim (of animals)"

Note: Alternatively from Indo-European *maḱ- if a is accepted as a vowel, as the laryngeal h2 is invoked solely to produce the right vocalism.

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Time Traveler for meager

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

6 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Meager.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for meager


How to pronounce meager (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of meager

: very small or too small in amount
: not having enough of something (such as money or food) for comfort or happiness


variants: or meagre \ ˈmē-​gər \

Kids Definition of meager

1 : not enough in quality or amount a meager income
2 : having little flesh : thin

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More from Merriam-Webster on meager

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for meager

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with meager

Spanish Central: Translation of meager

Nglish: Translation of meager for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of meager for Arabic Speakers

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