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 Workers will still receive payments from their home states, but the loss of the extra $600 will slash payments by more than half for many, and in some cases significantly more for workers in states that offer only meager unemployment benefits. Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post, "Uncertainty, anxiety and sleepless nights for the unemployed as Congress lets $600 benefits lapse," 31 July 2020 There isn’t comprehensive data on just who is accessing the money, but signs are emerging of the young cleaning out meager pots. Emily Cadman, Fortune, "Legacy of global financial crisis means Gen Z is hardest hit by the COVID economy," 6 July 2020 Since then, only two other days — both of them this month — could muster no more than the meager 90 degree heat needed to qualify. Martin Weil, Washington Post, "It’s summer, three weeks after the solstice, and the heat goes on," 12 July 2020 Some also demanded that police supervisors be held accountable for a subsequent internal investigation that was so meager. oregonlive, "Black Portland man’s ‘despicable and inhuman treatment’ by West Linn police prompts community meeting," 9 July 2020 State and federal officials wasted valuable time to ramp up testing capacity and contact-tracing programs and provided only meager economic assistance to those affected. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Electoral College Is an American Humiliation," 8 July 2020 Hotel rooms usually full at this time of year have a meager 29% occupancy. Chronicle Staff,, "Coronavirus news from the Bay Area: July 6-7," 8 July 2020 On April 14, only 87,534 travelers passed through U.S. airports, a meager number not seen since the 1950s. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "COVID-19 has blown up air travel for nearly four months. The next four could shape it even more.," 5 July 2020 Institutional support for clean energy should come from the Department of Energy, the report finds—and right now, that support is meager. Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "Sweeping climate-crisis plan would bring US to zero emissions in 30 years," 1 July 2020

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

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Meager.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 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

Spanish Central: Translation of meager

Nglish: Translation of meager for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of meager for Arabic Speakers

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