\ ˈstərn How to pronounce stern (audio) \

Definition of stern

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : having a definite hardness or severity of nature or manner : austere
b : expressive of severe displeasure : harsh
2 : forbidding or gloomy in appearance
3 : inexorable stern necessity
4 : sturdy, stout a stern resolve



Definition of stern (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the rear end of a boat
2 : a hinder or rear part : the last or latter part

Other Words from stern


sternly adverb
sternness \ ˈstərn-​nəs How to pronounce stern (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for stern


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 stern in a Sentence

Adjective He gave me a stern look. the army post's stern commander always had the utmost respect of those who served under him
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The language in the corporate-imperial scenes sounds like a British workplace satire: squabbles over jurisdictional access, stern discussions about unfinished memoranda, and quarterly reports. Kristen Baldwin,, 30 Sep. 2022 The 45 is a center-console design, but the rounded stern and subtle curves give it a distinctive look among the more conventional motorboats at the show. Michael Verdon, Robb Report, 28 Sep. 2022 Amid his mother’s stern declarations that Todd needs to put together a plan to live as a financially solvent adult, a sudden turn of events finds the two teaming up. oregonlive, 23 Sep. 2022 However, resident Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli) takes a more stern approach with the hospital's newest staff members. Stephanie Wenger, Peoplemag, 22 Sep. 2022 Comments like Mester’s contributed to a sharp fall in stock prices last month that began after Powell’s stern anti-inflation speech at the conference in Jackson Hole. Christopher Rugaber, Fortune, 21 Sep. 2022 Once the suit-wearing dancers arrived to the main stage, a single spotlight came to life in the left corner of the stage, revealing a stern Lamar, seated earnestly at an upright piano alongside his tour companion: a ventriloquist dummy of himself. Neena Rouhani, Billboard, 19 Sep. 2022 Comments like Mester’s contributed to a sharp fall in stock prices last month that began after Powell’s stern anti-inflation speech at an economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Christopher Rugaber, Chicago Tribune, 19 Sep. 2022 After regaining their balance, the three observers swiftly descended a ladder in the stern and jogged over to a lackadaisical python slowly slithering up the edge of the levee. Los Angeles Times, 12 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The boat does not have an engine and sails using wind power, with maneuvering assistance from a 19-foot yawl boat that pushes against the stern, the website said., 1 Sep. 2022 The ship broke apart into two main sections, with the bow largely intact and the stern considered in an advanced state of decay. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 1 Sep. 2022 Stem to stern, the GOP is sailing with a full complement of unreconstructed chaos agents. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 20 Aug. 2022 Rodemeyer did the honors with the net and hoisted the fish over the stern. Paul A. Smith, Journal Sentinel, 18 Aug. 2022 Outside, the transom door has been fitted with giant windows (again, the clients’ decision) to allow natural light into the beach club in the stern. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 28 July 2022 The impressive performance is matched with enough volume at the stern for a tender garage capable of storing a Williams 345 SportJet. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, 24 Aug. 2022 The lightest and most technically savvy rowers sit at the two ends—the eight (also known as stroke) and seven seats at the stern, setting the rhythm and pace of the boat, and the two and one seats at the bow keeping the vessel balanced. Kim O'connell, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 July 2022 Christened Ono, the yacht has a wedge-like silhouette with a sharp reverse bow and a sleek superstructure that tapers to the stern. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 17 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stern.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of stern


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for stern


Middle English sterne, from Old English styrne; akin to Old English starian to stare — more at stare


Middle English, rudder, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse stjōrn steering, rudder; akin to Old English stīeran to steer — more at steer

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The first known use of stern was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

2 Oct 2022

Cite this Entry

“Stern.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for stern


\ ˈstərn How to pronounce stern (audio) \
sterner; sternest

Kids Definition of stern

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : hard and severe in nature or manner : very strict and serious a stern judge a stern warning
2 : showing severe displeasure or disapproval The elder's stern expression softened.— Brian Jacques, Redwall
3 : firm and not changeable She showed stern determination to succeed.

Other Words from stern

sternly adverb speak sternly



Kids Definition of stern (Entry 2 of 2)

: the rear end of a boat

Stern biographical name (1)

\ ˈstərn How to pronounce Stern (audio) \

Definition of Stern

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Isaac 1920–2001 American (Russian-born) violinist


biographical name (2)

Definition of Stern (Entry 2 of 2)

Otto 1888–1969 American (German-born) physicist

More from Merriam-Webster on stern

Nglish: Translation of stern for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of stern for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about stern


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