sev·​er ˈse-vər How to pronounce sever (audio)
severed; severing ˈsev-riŋ How to pronounce sever (audio)

transitive verb

: to put or keep apart : divide
especially : to remove (something, such as a part) by or as if by cutting

intransitive verb

: to become separated
Choose the Right Synonym for sever

separate, part, divide, sever, sunder, divorce mean to become or cause to become disunited or disjointed.

separate may imply any of several causes such as dispersion, removal of one from others, or presence of an intervening thing.

separated her personal life from her career

part implies the separating of things or persons in close union or association.

vowed never to part

divide implies separating into pieces or sections by cutting or breaking.

civil war divided the nation

sever implies violence especially in the removal of a part or member.

a severed limb

sunder suggests violent rending or wrenching apart.

a city sundered by racial conflict

divorce implies separating two things that commonly interact and belong together.

cannot divorce scientific research from moral responsibility

Example Sentences

He severed the lowest tree limbs. His finger was severed in the accident. Activists are asking the government to sever all diplomatic relations with the country.
Recent Examples on the Web As the years went on, the family expanded, severed and overall, made for great reality TV. Adrianna Freedman, Good Housekeeping, 7 May 2023 An Iraqi missile had severed the plane's hydraulic lines. David Martin, CBS News, 1 May 2023 In 2006, as Mr. Jimenez was finishing the 9,000-pound cast-fiberglass sculpture, a piece came loose and fatally severed an artery in his leg. Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, 29 Apr. 2023 Outlets including The Washington Post and NPR reported Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott made the decision to sever ties with Carlson. Brieanna J. Frank, USA TODAY, 28 Apr. 2023 Relying on his leftist credentials, Petro reopened diplomatic ties with Caracas that had been severed by his predecessor and appears to have gained some trust with the Maduro government. Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr. 2023 The ban would not take effect until January 2024 and would become void if Congress passes a national measure or if TikTok severs its connections with China. Amy Beth Hanson And Haleluya Hadero, Anchorage Daily News, 15 Apr. 2023 Judge Steven Boyce ruled in February that their cases would be severed because Vallow has refused to waive her right to a speedy trial. Audrey Conklin, Fox News, 10 Apr. 2023 Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979 but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself. Reuters, NBC News, 9 Apr. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French severer, from Latin separare — more at separate

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

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

Dictionary Entries Near sever

Cite this Entry

“Sever.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


sev·​er ˈsev-ər How to pronounce sever (audio)
severed; severing -(ə-)riŋ How to pronounce sever (audio)
: to put or keep apart : divide
especially : to cut off or through
: to come or break apart

Legal Definition


transitive verb
sev·​er ˈse-vər How to pronounce sever (audio)
severed; severing
: to end (a joint tenancy) by ending one or all of the unities of time, title, possession, or interest (as by conveying one tenant's interest to another party)
: to separate (as a contract) into different parts (as independent obligations) in order to treat each separately
: to try (criminal offenses or defendants) separately in order to avoid prejudice
: to split (a criminal trial) into multiple trials in order to avoid prejudice
: to try (civil claims or issues pleaded in the same case) separately
severance noun

More from Merriam-Webster on sever

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