meager

adjective

mea·​ger ˈmē-gər How to pronounce meager (audio)
variants or meagre
1
: having little flesh : thin
meager were his looks, sharp misery had worn him to the bones William Shakespeare
2
a
: lacking desirable qualities (such as richness or strength)
leading a meager life
b
: deficient in quality or quantity
a meager diet
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

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web John Samuel Shenker have all seen their already meager production dwindle as the season has progressed. Creg Stephenson | Cstephenson@al.com, al, 22 Nov. 2022 Even the relatively meager $100 billion per year that wealthy nations previously promised the developing world to help with recovery from extreme weather events has yet to be delivered, while drought and flooding are ravaging crops. Evan Halper, Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2022 The economy, stifled by the lockdowns and other controls, inched upward just 0.4 percent in the second quarter of this year, an astonishingly meager rate by China’s historical standards. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, 9 Sep. 2022 For nearly a year—and on a relatively meager total budget of circa $100,000—eight to 12 experts will work on the UAP Independent Study. Sarah Scoles, Scientific American, 15 Aug. 2022 Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate PITTSBURGH — Carlos Rodón gets the most meager run support in the San Francisco Giants’ rotation, and the team is on a recent run of hitting solo homers. Susan Slusser, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 June 2022 Transportation and climate change advocates had hoped for a comprehensive plan to decarbonize the way Americans move around the country, but as with so many ambitious (and even meager) plans, that push didn't survive contact with the US Senate. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 3 June 2022 Today, Africatown is still a community trying to make the most of meager resources. Ellen Wexler, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Oct. 2022 Whether sanctions work has long been a topic of academic and political debate, but in the case of those imposed on Belarus, the results have so far been particularly meager. New York Times, 30 Jan. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near meager

Cite this Entry

“Meager.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meager. Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

meager

adjective
mea·​ger
variants or meagre
1
: having little flesh : thin
2
a
: lacking desirable qualities (as richness or strength)
led a meager life
b
: deficient in quality or quantity
a meager serving of meat
meagerly adverb
meagerness noun

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