\ ˈstərn How to pronounce stern (audio) \

Definition of stern

 (Entry 1 of 4)

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 4)

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


biographical name (1)
\ ˈstərn How to pronounce Stern (audio) \

Definition of Stern (Entry 3 of 4)

Isaac 1920–2001 American (Russian-born) violinist


biographical name (2)

Definition of Stern (Entry 4 of 4)

Otto 1888–1969 American (German-born) physicist

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Other Words from stern


sternly adverb
sternness \ ˈstərn-​nəs How to pronounce sternness (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 But the admonition appeared less a stern rebuke than a sarcastic joke between friends, one that provoked laughter in the room. Eli Stokols,, "‘Don’t meddle in the election,’ Trump tells Putin with a smile," 28 June 2019 Moye issued stern rebukes to all of them at one point or another, often for interruptions or statements deemed inappropriate. Sarah Sarder, Dallas News, "Days after fatal South Dallas shootout, judge grants temporary restraining order on Jim's Car Wash," 6 June 2019 Turkey received delivery of the Russian weapons system this year, despite stern U.S. warnings against such a move. Michael Collins, USA TODAY, "'A particularly inappropriate time': Trump welcomes Turkey's Erdogan despite Syria attack," 13 Nov. 2019 Prosecutors have given a stern warning to the parents still fighting back: plead guilty or prepare to face new bribery charges — which could add years to a potential sentence. CBS News, "Lori Loughlin and other parents hit with new charges in college admissions scam," 22 Oct. 2019 McConnell weighed in on another issue Monday, offering a stern warning against abandoning Syrian Kurds who fought the Islamic State group with U.S. troops. Bruce Schreiner, San Diego Union-Tribune, "McConnell largely avoids impeachment talk while back home," 7 Oct. 2019 The Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "'Storm Area 51' raid brings alien 'community of believers' to Nevada desert," 20 Sep. 2019 The military responded with stern warnings that lethal force could be used if people entered the Nevada Test and Training Range, and local and state officials said arrests would be made if people tried. Ken Ritter, Houston Chronicle, "About 75 people gather at Area 51 gate, 2 people detained," 20 Sep. 2019 Last week, the governing body of collegiate athletics sent California governor Gavin Newsome (D) a stern warning. Joseph Goodman |, al, "Tim Tebow wasn’t wrong about one important thing," 17 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun One of those coffins landed on the stern of the first wreck, smashing the timbers beneath it. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "400-year-old warships in Swedish channel may be sisters of doomed Vasa," 20 Nov. 2019 Carlos and Willy sat in the stern, next to the outboard motor. Nell Zink, Harper's magazine, "The Bird Angle," 28 Oct. 2019 Stoddard was sitting on the stern of a pleasure boat, next to Cindy Lerner, the former mayor of Pinecrest, another nearby city. Mario Alejandro Ariza, The New Republic, "Calm Before the Storm," 30 Sep. 2019 On the stern, divers also got a view of the ship’s aft escape hatches, where the ladders had fallen away, as described by Eagle’s survivors. Fox News, "Last US warship sunk by German sub during WWII reveals its secrets in eerie images from seabed," 19 Sep. 2019 Toward the stern, an escape hatch located above one of the bunks led to a mess area next to the galley — and just a few feet from the large, open main deck. Los Angeles Times, "Surviving crew member thought phone charging station might have sparked boat fire," 5 Sep. 2019 Glistening boulder-sized shards broke off, bobbing toward the stern. Author: Richard Read, Anchorage Daily News, "Meet the icebreaker Polar Star, the neglected stepchild of the U.S. military industrial complex," 17 Aug. 2019 The 20 degree deadrise at the stern is a pretty common angle for oceangoing boats, too. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "The Yamaha 242 Limited S Is Ready To Escape the Lake," 11 July 2019 Imagine if someone took a chainsaw to the roof of one of San Francisco Muni’s vintage street cars, opened it to the sky, then strung party lights from a central cabin and hung a pirate flag from the stern. Sarah Feldberg,, "It’s a boat. It’s a tram. It’s San Francisco’s celebrity trolley," 6 Sep. 2019

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.

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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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Time Traveler for stern

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for stern

Last Updated

5 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Stern.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 11 December 2019.

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More Definitions for stern


How to pronounce Stern (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of stern

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: very serious especially in an unfriendly way
: expressing strong disapproval or criticism
: not likely to change or become weaker



English Language Learners Definition of stern (Entry 2 of 2)

: the back part of a boat or ship


\ 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on stern

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stern

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stern

Spanish Central: Translation of stern

Nglish: Translation of stern for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on stern

What made you want to look up stern? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


heavy with or as if with moisture

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