[ aw-ster-i-tee ]
/ ɔˈstɛr ɪ ti /

noun, plural aus·ter·i·ties.

austere quality; severity of manner, life, etc.; sternness.
Usually austerities. ascetic practices: austerities of monastery life.
strict economy.



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Origin of austerity

1300–50; Middle English austerite < Anglo-French, Old French austerite < Latin austēritās. See austere, -ity Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


What does austerity mean?

Austerity means sternness, severity, or a state of extreme self-discipline or minimalistic living.

Austerity is the noun form of the adjective austere, which most commonly means extremely stern or strict or without any frills or luxuries.

The word is often used in the context of a national economy in which services and access to certain goods have been scaled back by the government during times of economic crisis. This sense is especially seen in the phrase austerity measures.  

The term is sometimes used in its plural form to refer to ascetic practices, like living in a monastery—think of a monk who lives in a bedroom with only a metal cot and eats plain rice every day.

Example: The government has turned to austerity to help curb the rising debt.

Where does austerity come from?

The first records of the word austerity in English come from around the late 1300s. It ultimately derives from the Greek austērós, meaning “harsh, rough, bitter.”

Austerity involves living in harsh, rough, and severely simple conditions. Sometimes, it’s on purpose. The austerities of life 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 austerity must get along in the most minimalistic conditions, 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.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of austerity?

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


How is austerity used in real life?

The word austerity is often used to refer to strict economic conditions.



Try using austerity!

Which of the following words is MOST likely to be associated with austerity?

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

Example sentences from the Web for austerity

British Dictionary definitions for austerity

/ (ɒˈstɛrɪtɪ) /

noun plural -ties

the state or quality of being austere
(often plural) an austere habit, practice, or act
  1. reduced availability of luxuries and consumer goods, esp when brought about by government policy
  2. (as modifier)an austerity budget
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