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 bonesWilliam 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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web These programs are gaining steam as lawmakers nationwide grapple with the realities of a struggling child care system, including limited child care options and high care costs while child care workers make meager wages. Journal Sentinel, 26 Mar. 2024 While any job growth is good, that hiring pace looked meager in an otherwise strong US labor market. Jonathan Lansner, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Mar. 2024 The doctors candidly confessed that the chances of success were meager. David Frum, The Atlantic, 21 Mar. 2024 Still, that number was meager, with just 12 companies disclosing internal promotion statistics. Byruth Umoh, Fortune, 13 Mar. 2024 Newsletters Sign up for Morning Rounds Understand how science, health policy, and medicine shape the world every day The Food and Drug Administration has also made some attempts at cracking down on Delta 8 companies, though its efforts have been meager compared to the size of the industry. Nicholas Florko, STAT, 12 Mar. 2024 Executives should recognize the reality that unless and until the whole firm embraces the new management paradigm, business gains are likely to be meager. Steve Denning, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 Western aid, replenished by the European Union last month, is still meager because of Republican dysfunction in Congress. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, 19 Feb. 2024 Plus, the country’s private quantum sector is relatively meager. IEEE Spectrum, 14 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'meager.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 18 Apr. 2024.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on meager

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