fam·​ine | \ ˈfa-mən How to pronounce famine (audio) \

Definition of famine

1 : an extreme scarcity of food The famine affected most of the country.
2 archaic : starvation
3 archaic : a ravenous appetite
4 : a great shortage Transportation problems resulted in a coal famine.

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Examples of famine in a Sentence

The famine affected half the continent. millions killed by war, drought, and famine
Recent Examples on the Web Tens of thousands of Yemenis live in famine conditions, and another five million face dire food insecurity. The New Yorker, 4 Oct. 2021 Ethiopia ordered the expulsion of seven senior United Nations officials on Thursday, two days after the U.N.’s aid chief warned that northern Ethiopia is sliding into famine because the government is blocking aid deliveries to the region. New York Times, 30 Sep. 2021 Two million people have been displaced, more than 350,000 are facing famine, and millions more are in need of emergency food aid. Isha Sesay, Masai Ujiri, CNN, 29 Sep. 2021 Food security experts months ago estimated that 400,000 people in Tigray face famine conditions, more than the rest of the world combined. Arkansas Online, 24 Sep. 2021 Then Mao’s government in 1952 started the collectivization drive that put all land in the hands of the government (and led to policies that arguably triggered the famine of 1959-62). Anne Stevenson-yang, Forbes, 24 Sep. 2021 The United States on Monday imposed new sanctions over Ethiopia’s deadly Tigray conflict as hundreds of thousands of people face famine conditions under a government blockade. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2021 Hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray now face famine conditions in the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade. Cara Anna, The Christian Science Monitor, 11 Aug. 2021 Hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray now face famine conditions in the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade. BostonGlobe.com, 10 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'famine.' 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 famine

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for famine

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from feim, faim hunger, from Latin fames

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Learn More About famine

Time Traveler for famine

Time Traveler

The first known use of famine was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near famine

family way


famine bread

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Statistics for famine

Last Updated

8 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Famine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/famine. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for famine



English Language Learners Definition of famine

: a situation in which many people do not have enough food to eat


fam·​ine | \ ˈfa-mən How to pronounce famine (audio) \

Kids Definition of famine

: a very great shortage of food that affects many people over a wide area

More from Merriam-Webster on famine

Nglish: Translation of famine for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of famine for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about famine


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