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Origin of dearth

First recorded in 1200–50, dearth is from the Middle English word derthe. See dear1, -th1
Can be confuseddearth plethoradearth death

Synonyms for dearth

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Antonyms for dearth Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for dearth

Contemporary Examples of dearth

Historical Examples of dearth

  • For who does not know what a dearth there is of wise men, if yet any one be to be found?

    The Praise of Folly

    Desiderius Erasmus

  • "A very acceptable one in these days of dearth," said Mary, blushing.

    The Elm Tree Tales

    F. Irene Burge Smith

  • Here at Athens there is a dearth of the commodity, and all wisdom seems to have emigrated from us to you.



  • From the housing question to the dearth of servants we feel its baneful effects.

    The Curse of Education

    Harold E. Gorst

  • The mills, with their dyes and dirt, are also responsible for the dearth of trout.

    Angling Sketches

    Andrew Lang

British Dictionary definitions for dearth


  1. an inadequate amount, esp of food; scarcity

Word Origin for dearth

C13: derthe, from dēr dear
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

Word Origin and History for dearth

mid-13c., derthe "scarcity" (originally used of famines, when food was costly because scarce; extended to other situations of scarcity from early 14c.), abstract noun formed from root of Old English deore "precious, costly" (see dear) + abstract noun suffix -th (2). Common Germanic formation, though not always with the same sense (cf. Old Saxon diurtha "splendor, glory, love," Middle Dutch dierte, Dutch duurte, Old High German tiurida "glory").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper