[ aw-steer ]
/ ɔˈstɪər /
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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.
rough to the taste; sour or harsh in flavor.
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Origin of austere

1300–50; Middle English (<Anglo-French ) <Latin austērus<Greek austērós harsh, rough, bitter

synonym study for austere

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.


aus·tere·ly, adverbaus·tere·ness, nounun·aus·tere, adjectiveun·aus·tere·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


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

How to use austere in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for austere

/ (ɒˈstɪə) /

stern or severe in attitude or manneran austere schoolmaster
grave, sober, or seriousan austere expression
self-disciplined, abstemious, or ascetican austere life
severely simple or plainan austere design

Derived forms of austere

austerely, adverbaustereness, noun

Word Origin for austere

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