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[aw-steer] /ɔˈstɪər/
severe in manner or appearance; uncompromising; strict; forbidding:
an austere teacher.
rigorously self-disciplined and severely moral; ascetic; abstinent:
the austere quality of life in the convent.
grave; sober; solemn; serious:
an austere manner.
without excess, luxury, or ease; simple; limited; severe:
an austere life.
severely simple; without ornament:
austere writing.
lacking softness; hard:
an austere bed of straw.
rough to the taste; sour or harsh in flavor.
Origin of austere
1300-50; Middle English (< Anglo-French) < Latin austērus < Greek austērós harsh, rough, bitter
Related forms
austerely, adverb
austereness, noun
unaustere, adjective
unausterely, adverb
4. Austere, bleak, spartan, stark all suggest lack of ornament or adornment and of a feeling of comfort or warmth. Austere usually implies a purposeful avoidance of luxury or ease: simple, stripped-down, austere surroundings. Bleak adds a sense of forbidding coldness, hopelessness, depression: a bleak, dreary, windswept plain. Spartan, somewhat more forceful than austere, implies stern discipline and rigorous, even harsh, avoidance of all that is not strictly functional: a life of Spartan simplicity. Stark shares with bleak a sense of grimness and desolation: the stark cliff face.
4. luxurious, comfortable, lush; sybaritic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for austere
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Quickly the light died out of his face, leaving it stern and austere.

    In Kings' Byways Stanley J. Weyman
  • The simple, austere, stoical, heroic man she admired as one above her.

  • A sinister, wrathful, and austere divinity who has no place in Triton's city.

    Tales From Jkai Mr Jkai
  • The Spartans were dignified, austere, and of few words, "laconic" in speech.

    History of Education Levi Seeley
  • Very young—but austere, dignified, and strange, genuinely and effortlessly strange.

    Christmas Roses and Other Stories Anne Douglas Sedgwick
British Dictionary definitions for austere


stern or severe in attitude or manner: an austere schoolmaster
grave, sober, or serious: an austere expression
self-disciplined, abstemious, or ascetic: an austere life
severely simple or plain: an austere design
Derived Forms
austerely, adverb
austereness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French austère, from Latin austērus sour, from Greek austēros astringent; related to Greek hauein to dry
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for austere

early 14c., from Old French austere (Modern French austère) and directly from Latin austerus "dry, harsh, sour, tart," from Greek austeros "bitter, harsh," especially "making the tongue dry" (originally used of fruits, wines), metaphorically "austere, harsh," from PIE *saus- "dry" (cf. Greek auos "dry," auein "to dry"). Use in English is figurative: "stern, severe, very simple." Related: Austerely.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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