\ 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 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 Inside the plane itself, a stern-looking man wearing black sunglasses helps an elderly woman wrapped in a blanket undo her seatbelt. Andy Meek, BGR, 15 July 2021 The end to the mask mandate comes amid stern warnings from health experts, who say face coverings reduce transmission in crowded spaces and help prevent potentially vaccine-resistant variants from spreading. Tara John, CNN, 7 July 2021 Tarzan rapidly comes to admire the sheikh and his stern, dignified warriors, but resists the temptation to settle among them permanently. Washington Post, 19 Aug. 2020 The new leadership in Israel, an ongoing target of Iranian threats, responded to Raisi's election with a stern warning to the world. Ronn Blitzer, Fox News, 22 June 2021 Biden, in contrast, is expected to deliver a stern warning to the Russian leader over myriad issues. Los Angeles Times, 15 June 2021 For everyone on board, though, is the spa with an infinity pool that looks out over the stern, fitness center, jogging track, casino, several lounges, card room, library and main pool. Richard Tribou,, 22 June 2021 Along with slightly taller and wider dimensions, the new Tucson is 6.1 inches longer from stem to stern (182.3 inches overall) and boasts an extra 3.4 inches between its axles, most of which translates to its 41.3 inches of rear-seat legroom. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, 11 June 2021 Millicent Simmonds, who is herself deaf, has a stern, strong, gunboat face., 27 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In many river crossings, that goes to whoever has the current pushing their stern., 15 July 2021 To help stay focused and motivated, Caldwell had the men draw up a mission statement, which was pasted as a decal on the bow and stern of the boat. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 June 2021 Authorities extinguished the fire last week, but the ship then began sinking and attempts to tow it into deeper waters failed when its stern rested on the seabed. NBC News, 17 June 2021 Still, Octuri’s 3-D visuals and focus on details—the yacht will have two main decks as well as half-decks in the bow and stern—as well as line drawings, give it a sense of authenticity. Michael Verdon, Robb Report, 28 May 2021 The canoe is customized with bulkheads that section off the middle from the bow and stern, allowing space for one paddler to rest or alternate with the second person mid-canoe, so a third paddle always is in the water, too. Bob Timmons, Star Tribune, 6 May 2021 The five crew members on board had gathered on the stern and were directed into the water by officials, the Coast Guard said., 1 May 2021 Then, look at where to place the battery and how the boat will balance with the weight of a motor on the stern. Field & Stream, 19 Mar. 2021 The sleek aluminum hull helps to reduce drag, and the sloping stern has less impact on the displacement to further improve efficiency. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 1 June 2021

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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Last Updated

22 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Stern.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for stern



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

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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