extreme and general scarcity of food, as in a country or a large geographical area.
any extreme and general scarcity.
extreme hunger; starvation.

Origin of famine

1325–75; Middle English < Middle French, derivative of faim hunger (< Latin famēs); see -ine2

Synonyms for famine

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for famine

Contemporary Examples of famine

Historical Examples of famine

  • That morning a rumor had reached the village of a famine in the island of Crete.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • That was in case of an enemy or a famine when the people might be tempted to eat it.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • I could have pronounced him, alone, to be a young man aged by famine and sickness.

  • This is the usual result of feast after famine, and was to be expected.

  • This famine was not a long one, but it was severe while it lasted.

    White Fang

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for famine



a severe shortage of food, as through crop failure or overpopulation
acute shortage of anything
violent hunger

Word Origin for famine

C14: from Old French, via Vulgar Latin, from Latin famēs hunger
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 famine

mid-14c., from Old French famine "hunger" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *famina, from Latin fames "hunger, starvation, famine," of unknown origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with famine


see feast or famine.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.