\ 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 One former clerk recalled, in an interview on the High School SCOTUS blog, Justice Antonin Scalia’s stern admonition to his new class of clerks on their first day. New York Times, 8 May 2022 The men, meanwhile, do their best to present a stern front, but in a comically halting exchange between Madjooni’s gruff, wisdom-imparting dad and Simiar’s apprehensive firstborn, against an impossibly scenic backdrop, the awkwardness is touching. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 5 May 2022 The stern measures failed to prevent the city's worst-ever outbreak. Nicholas Gordon, Fortune, 4 May 2022 The client, who is an experienced yachtsman, also opted for a joystick coupled to the transmissions, as well as bow and stern thrusters. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 3 May 2022 The eight-second clip of two youth players colliding in practice in the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association, near Charlotte, N.C., drew stern rebuke from current and former NFL players alike. Chase Goodbread, USA TODAY, 25 Apr. 2022 And that voice is booming, stern, and familiar; the kind of voice that would make sense for an agitated ancient god. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 30 Mar. 2022 Still, the director’s clearly beguiled by the energy of father-daughter relationships, in which stern lectures about responsibility might go in either direction. David Sims, The Atlantic, 21 Oct. 2020 Sandu signed a bill last week banning Russian symbols of aggression, eliciting stern words from Russian officials. Ayman Oghanna, NBC News, 26 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Vessel cannot close transom door and water has entered the stern. Adam Sabes, Fox News, 7 May 2022 The Haida, whose land encompassed cedar forests, probably shaped it and decorated the prow and stern with designs of an eagle and killer whale. New York Times, 5 May 2022 Counter-intuitively, the bow of the boat is at your back, the stern is in front of you, the port is to your right and the starboard to your left. Ted Diadiun, cleveland, 19 Mar. 2022 Parents can lounge on deck with a glass of Pošip, a crisp white wine, while kids swim off the stern. Jancee Dunn, Travel + Leisure, 10 Apr. 2022 The pool measures 13 feet by 20 feet and is nearly 8 feet deep, with walkaround sides and pontoons that push it far beyond the stern. Michael Verdon, Robb Report, 2 Apr. 2022 The ship’s name, in gold lettering, was visible across the stern. Mike Cherney, WSJ, 22 Mar. 2022 On November 21, 1915, the stern went up, the bow went down, and the Endurance slipped under. Adam Iscoe, The New Yorker, 12 Mar. 2022 Images reveal that the bold capital letters of the ship’s name are still intact and visible above the stern. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Mar. 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

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Stern.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 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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