View synonyms for austere


[ aw-steer ]


  1. severe in manner or appearance; uncompromising; strict; forbidding:

    an austere teacher.

  2. rigorously self-disciplined and severely moral; ascetic; abstinent:

    the austere quality of life in the convent.

  3. grave; sober; solemn; serious:

    an austere manner.

  4. without excess, luxury, or ease; simple; limited; severe:

    an austere life.

    Antonyms: sybaritic, lush, comfortable, luxurious

  5. severely simple; without ornament:

    austere writing.

  6. rough to the taste; sour or harsh in flavor.


/ ɒˈstɪə /


  1. stern or severe in attitude or manner

    an austere schoolmaster

  2. grave, sober, or serious

    an austere expression

  3. self-disciplined, abstemious, or ascetic

    an austere life

  4. severely simple or plain

    an austere design

“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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Derived Forms

  • ausˈtereness, noun
  • ausˈterely, adverb
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Other Words From

  • aus·terely adverb
  • aus·tereness noun
  • unaus·tere adjective
  • unaus·terely adverb
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Word History and Origins

Origin of austere1

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin austērus, from Greek austērós “harsh, rough, bitter”
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Word History and Origins

Origin of austere1

C14: from Old French austère, from Latin austērus sour, from Greek austēros astringent; related to Greek hauein to dry
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Synonym Study

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.
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Example Sentences

Quirky boom-and-bust mining towns, austere desert scenery, and the wooded mountains of the Gila National Forest are all part of this byway that loops through the varied terrain of southern New Mexico.

In some ways, the Olympics that Japan is hosting now will have the feel of the 1948 Games — austere, but for obviously different reasons.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of that resistance came from within the dance world itself, and had more to do with breaking those austere traditions than with the politics of LGBTQ activism.

There are austere pieces, notably Amy Finkelstein’s photo of a striking abstract collage.

The tension between austere geometric forms and random natural shapes has long been central to the artist’s style.

The cells are austere—essentially hardened trailers—that cost about $40,000 each to build.

The site is not unlike North Korea itself: austere and more than a little bit dated-looking.

Multi-story hotel towers stand stripped of any ornamentation, and seem almost Soviet in their austere and honest decay.

“It looks spare and austere, but we spent 1,000 hours creating these,” Snoeren said.

The designs were meant to be “stark” and “austere,” the designers said, and there were no straight seams in the creations.

The sedateness of his deportment and the apparent regularity of his life delighted austere moralists.

Madame Torvestad, with an austere and imperious aspect, sat in her place; many gazed at her, but she maintained her composure.

Hence those great devotions, those austere retreats from the world, of which some of them have given an example.

These are the followers of Levana, the austere goddess who takes up the new-born babe and perfects it by sorrow.

This type became more and more rigid and austere as the gathering shadows of the Dark Ages mantled on the minds of men.


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More About Austere

What does austere mean?

Austere most commonly means extremely stern or strict or without any frills or luxuries.

Things that are described as austere are serious, harsh, or severely simple.

The word is especially used to describe a state of extreme self-discipline or minimalistic living, such as the austere conditions in a monastery. Think of a monk who lives in a bedroom with only a metal cot and eats plain rice every day—that’s an austere lifestyle.

The noun form of austere is austerity—the state of being austere.

Example: You can’t expect people to cope with such austere conditions—they need more than the bare necessities. 

Where does austere come from?

The first records of the word austere come from around the late 1300s. It comes from the Greek austērós, meaning “harsh, rough, bitter.”

Austere is often applied to harsh, rough, and severely simple conditions. Sometimes, people seek out austere conditions on purpose. Such conditions in a monastery are typically intended to help those who live there focus on the spiritual aspect of life without being distracted by anything that’s considered frivolous.

In many cases, though, austerity is not by choice. People forced to live in austere conditions must get along without any luxuries and often without some things that other people considered necessities. Austerity measures implemented by governments often involve cutting everything from the budget that’s not absolutely essential, leaving citizens to live in extremely austere conditions.

A person who’s described as austere is extremely serious and perhaps stern—think of the expressions on the farmers depicted in the painting American Gothic. A style of art, such as architecture, might be described as austere if it’s extremely simple, with no ornamentation.

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What are some other forms related to austere?

  • austerity (noun)
  • austerely (adverb)
  • austereness (noun)
  • unaustere (adjective)
  • unausterely (adverb)

What are some synonyms for austere?

What are some words that often get used in discussing austere?


How is austere used in real life?

The word austere can be used in all kinds of contexts. It’s often used to describe a minimalistic lifestyle or a stern person’s personality.



Try using austere!

Which of the following words is MOST likely to be associated with something considered austere?

A. luxury
B. convenience
C. abundance
D. simplicity