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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web At the time, it was widely believed that young people didn’t suffer severe symptoms from the respiratory illness. Cara Lynn Shultz, Peoplemag, 16 Feb. 2024 Summarization And Explanation For individuals with severe cognitive impairments, navigating through extended customer service documents or deciphering chatbot conversations can be a daunting task. Raghu Ravinutala, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 The kratom leaves were traditionally chewed or brewed into a tea to alleviate symptoms of a variety of illnesses and conditions, including anxiety, chronic fatigue, and severe pain relief. Sponsored Content, The Mercury News, 16 Feb. 2024 Such facilities are notorious for their severe conditions and harsh treatment of prisoners. Mary Ilyushina, Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2024 An audit by the California State University’s Office of the Chancellor in October found widespread problems, including a lack of controls over spending, severe financial shortcomings that threatened the future of the operation and a lack of opportunities for students. Sam Stanton, Sacramento Bee, 16 Feb. 2024 Idaho residents convicted of fentanyl crimes will likely soon face more severe prison sentences. Ian Max Stevenson, Idaho Statesman, 16 Feb. 2024 Oral hygiene can reduce inflammation and bleeding and prevent more severe gum disease.36 Treatment Symptoms typically resolve quickly after your period starts.1 Continue with brushing and flossing daily in the meantime. Sarah Bradley, Health, 15 Feb. 2024 And, to add an additional obstacle, with Republicans counting on strong election-day turnout given their voters’ reluctance to engage in early voting, the New York area was pummeled by a severe snowstorm. The Editors, National Review, 15 Feb. 2024 See More

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 1 Mar. 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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