severe

adjective

se·​vere sə-ˈvir How to pronounce severe (audio)
severer; severest
1
a
: strict in judgment, discipline, or government
b
: of a strict or stern bearing or manner : austere
2
: rigorous in restraint, punishment, or requirement : stringent
3
: strongly critical or condemnatory
a severe critic
4
a
: maintaining a scrupulously exacting standard of behavior or self-discipline
b
: establishing exacting standards of accuracy and integrity in intellectual processes
a severe logician
5
: sober or restrained in decoration or manner : plain
a severe dress
6
a
: causing discomfort or hardship : harsh
severe winters
b
: very painful or harmful
a severe wound
7
: requiring great effort : arduous
a severe test
8
: of a great degree
severe depression
severely adverb
severeness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for severe

severe, stern, austere, ascetic mean given to or marked by strict discipline and firm restraint.

severe implies standards enforced without indulgence or laxity and may suggest harshness.

severe military discipline

stern stresses inflexibility and inexorability of temper or character.

stern arbiters of public morality

austere stresses absence of warmth, color, or feeling and may apply to rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial.

living an austere life in the country

ascetic implies abstention from pleasure and comfort or self-indulgence as spiritual discipline.

the ascetic life of the monks

Examples of severe in a Sentence

On Feb. 25 regulators laid out details on how they will run the "stress tests" that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has promised on the biggest banks. Now those tests, designed to judge whether the banks have the capital to keep lending and absorb losses in a severe recession, face an exam of their own. Jane Sasseen et al., Business Week, 9 Mar. 2009
A study in February in the journal Lancet, for instance, compared treatments for severe ankle sprains, concluding that a below-the-knee cast is superior to a tubular compression bandage. Sharon Begley, Newsweek, 9 Mar. 2009
Between 2000 and 2004 the number of Americans covered by Medicaid rose by a remarkable eight million. Over the same period the ranks of the uninsured rose by six million. So without the growth of Medicaid, the uninsured population would have exploded, and we'd be facing a severe crisis in medical care. Paul Krugman et al., New York Review of Books, 23 Mar. 2006
As several economists—most notably Jeffrey Williamson, of Harvard University—have written recently, international trade increased dramatically between 1850 and the First World War. Williamson goes on to point out that one consequence of this earlier period of globalization was that governments retreated into policies of severe trade and immigration restrictions. Nicholas Lemann, New Yorker, 10 May 1999
The storm caused severe damage to the roof. The patient is in severe pain. children with severe learning disabilities In the most severe cases, the disease can lead to blindness. He suffered a severe head injury. He faces severe penalties for his actions. The war was a severe test of his leadership.
Recent Examples on the Web Lead can be absorbed through the skin, causing mild to moderate symptoms such as fatigue, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating, as well as severe symptoms such as stomach cramping, seizures and coma. Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times, 16 Apr. 2024 Parts of Arkansas facing a slight risk for severe weather Thursday include Little Rock, Conway, Jonesboro, Hot Springs and Mena. Other areas, including Northwest Arkansas and much of the southern portion of the state are at a marginal risk for severe weather. Remington Miller, arkansasonline.com, 16 Apr. 2024 In the southwestern parts of the state, there’s a higher chance of severe weather, according to the NWS. Journal Sentinel, 16 Apr. 2024 The weather service said supercells — large thunderstorms with deep and persistent rotating updrafts that look like tall storm clouds with anvils or elongated clouds at the top — are possible and could produce all types of severe weather. Robert A. Cronkleton, Kansas City Star, 16 Apr. 2024 Major cities including New York and Philadelphia will also have a chance for severe weather Sunday, when there is a Level 1 of 5 risk for severe storms. Allison Chinchar, CNN, 14 Apr. 2024 Tuesday brings another day of severe weather, with the focus shifting slightly eastward. Daniel Amarante, ABC News, 13 Apr. 2024 The ship and supplies granted to Williams could have conceivably been used to aid the war effort; the conflict had already left both Harvard and Massachusetts in severe financial straits. Yaakov Zinberg, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Apr. 2024 The Supreme Court then dealt a severe blow to Smith’s plans for a spring trial by agreeing to take up a question of presidential immunity at the end of April. Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'severe.' 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 French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin severus

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of severe was in 1548

Cite this Entry

“Severe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/severe. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

severe

adjective
se·​vere sə-ˈvi(ə)r How to pronounce severe (audio)
severer; severest
1
a
: strict in judgment, discipline, or government
a severe ruler
b
: serious in feeling or manner : grave
2
: not using unnecessary ornament : plain
a severe style
3
: inflicting pain, distress, or hardship
severe wounds
a severe winter
4
: requiring great effort
a severe test
severely adverb

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