mea·​ger | \ˈmē-gər \
variants: or meagre

Definition of meager 

(Entry 1 of 3)

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: Adjective

Compensation for the job is meager, at least by Western standards—about 100,000 yuan, or $14,400 annually. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "China still having trouble staffing up its mega-telescope," 5 Nov. 2018 Kellogg’s meager sales growth is proving to be more expensive and harder to come by than anticipated. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Kellogg Leaves Bitter Taste," 31 Oct. 2018 There nearly a quarter million Somalis live in makeshift slums with meager food rations, no work and constant violence from terrorists and gangs. Abdi Nor Iftin, Time, "President Trump Betrayed My American Dream," 20 June 2018 Fisher said meager growth is a reflection not only of this exceptionally dry year, but of the previous dry years. Robert Krier,, "Rain helps in short term, but fire risk remains high," 1 May 2018 An additional 60,000 people have moved toward the Jordanian border, where a combination of meager resources and harsh weather has already caused some deaths. Louisa Loveluck, The Seattle Times, "Syrian rebels in surrender talks for southwest as civilians flee toward closed borders," 3 July 2018 At the time of his meager five-day suspension, Bailey had already demonstrated a pattern of troubling behavior, according to court and disciplinary records. Brian Chasnoff, San Antonio Express-News, "‘Pattern of behavior’ cited in arrested deputy," 6 June 2018 Even in periods when North-South relations seemed to thaw, the remains returned were meager and often decidedly suspicious. New York Times, "Trump-Kim Deal Promises Answers for Families of Korean War M.I.A.s," 15 June 2018 Growth is meager, and unemployment is 11.2 percent, more than three times the rate in Germany. Jack Ewing, New York Times, "As Uncertainty Clouds Economy, Europe Pulls Back on Easy Money," 14 June 2018

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, from Anglo-French megre, meigre, from Latin macr-, macer lean; akin to Old English mæger lean, Greek makros long

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Statistics for meager

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for meager

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

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More Definitions for meager



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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Comments on meager

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