Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Severe or stern in disposition or appearance; somber and grave: the austere figure of a Puritan minister.
  • adj. Strict or severe in discipline; ascetic: a desert nomad's austere life. See Synonyms at severe.
  • adj. Having no adornment or ornamentation; bare: an austere style.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Grim or severe in manner or appearance
  • adj. Lacking trivial decoration; not extravagant or gaudy

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Sour and astringent; rough to the state; having acerbity
  • Severe in modes of judging, or living, or acting; rigid; rigorous; stern.
  • Unadorned; unembellished; severely simple.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Sour; harsh; rough to the taste: applied to things: as, austere fruit or wine; “sloes austere,”
  • Severe; harsh; rigid; rigorous; stern: applied to persons and things: as, an austere master; an austere look.
  • Grave; sober; serious: as, austere deportment.
  • Severely simple; unadorned.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. severely simple
  • adj. practicing great self-denial
  • adj. of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor; forbidding in aspect

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin austērus, from Greek austēros.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French austere, from Latin austērus ("dry, harsh, sour, tart"), from Ancient Greek αὐστηρός (austēros, "bitter, harsh"), having the specific meaning "making the tongue dry" (originally used of fruits, wines), related to αὔω (auō, "to singe"), αὖος (auos, "dry"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • “These guys bring a whole new level of meaning to the word austere.”

    Healing the Highlander

  • He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night.

    STRIDER KNIVES

  • But Hallendren did not reach this halcyon state without a struggle, a revolution that left those who rejected it living in austere exile in the mountain realm of Idris.

    KINGS Preview in WARBREAKER Paperback Out Today + I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER

  • The England bid will also guarantee Fifa a minimum profit of £161m, which is seen as a crucial plank of the argument in austere times and in the wake of more risky World Cups in South Africa and Brazil 2014.

    England bid reveals 18 pledges in final push to host 2018 World Cup

  • For young men living in austere conditions, going out daily to risk their lives, morale is based not on polite subtleties but on a stark belief in their own righteousness, and in the iniquity of the enemy.

    Five Days in Fallujah

  • Dressed in austere white, her graying hair cut close to her scalp in the orthodox style so that the bristly ends tickle my palms when I run my hands over them, she's the one who makes sure we are suitably dressed for school in the one-inch-below-the-knee uniforms the nuns insist on.

    Excerpt: Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

  • For example, some commentators say that George Orwell originally wanted to title Nineteen Eighty-Four as 1948, because he saw the world he describes emerging in austere postwar Europe.

    Dystopia

  • Nature is in austere mood, even terrifying, withal majestically beautiful.

    Frederick Soddy - Banquet Speech

  • Although around 40 per cent of Geneva's population are foreigners, this cosmopolitan city is sometimes described as austere - a sentiment often attributed to Jean Calvin who, with his puritan associations, is considered the city's spiritual father.

    Telegraph.co.uk: news, business, sport, the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Sunday Telegraph

  • Fia glanced back at the foredeck, where she could just catch a glimpse of Thomas’s dark black hair as he paced, his expression austere, his firm mouth framed by his trim beard.

    Much Ado About Marriage

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Comments

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  • While this page mentions the Greek root of austere, it neglects to say what the word means in Greek, which is relevant. It means "dry."

    January 20, 2013

  • Austere (color) is dingy, somber (Oxford English Dictionary).

    October 8, 2011

  • The austere sun descends above the fen
    from "Winter Landscape, With Rooks," by Sylvia Plath

    March 31, 2008