• synonyms


verb (used without object), starved, starv·ing.
  1. to die or perish from lack of food or nourishment.
  2. to be in the process of perishing or suffering severely from hunger.
  3. to suffer from extreme poverty and need.
  4. to feel a strong need or desire: The child was starving for affection.
  5. Chiefly British Dialect. to perish or suffer extremely from cold.
  6. Obsolete. to die.
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verb (used with object), starved, starv·ing.
  1. to cause to starve; kill, weaken, or reduce by lack of food.
  2. to subdue, or force to some condition or action, by hunger: to starve a besieged garrison into a surrender.
  3. to cause to suffer for lack of something needed or craved.
  4. Chiefly British Dialect. to cause to perish, or to suffer extremely, from cold.
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Origin of starve

before 1000; Middle English sterven, Old English steorfan to die; cognate with German sterben
Related formshalf-starved, adjectivehalf-starv·ing, adjectiveself-starved, adjectiveun·starved, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for half-starved

Historical Examples of half-starved

  • Hadn't money enough to cross the bridge, and was half-starved.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • And, as sure as I'm a half-starved vagabond, I smell roast meat in it.

    Tanglewood Tales

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • Those poor, half-starved postmen must have helped themselves to it.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • What about that half-starved dog you brought on board in Bankok in your arms.

  • Reflecting in the first place that he was half-starved, I got him a meal.


    Charles Godfrey Leland

British Dictionary definitions for half-starved


  1. having been deprived of food; malnourished
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  1. to die or cause to die from lack of food
  2. to deprive (a person or animal) or (of a person, etc) to be deprived of food
  3. (intr) informal to be very hungry
  4. (foll by of or for) to deprive or be deprived (of something necessary), esp so as to cause suffering or malfunctioningthe engine was starved of fuel
  5. (tr foll by into) to bring (to) a specified condition by starvingto starve someone into submission
  6. archaic to be or cause to be extremely cold
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Derived Formsstarver, noun

Word Origin for starve

Old English steorfan to die; related to Old Frisian sterva to die, Old High German sterban to die
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 half-starved



Old English steorfan "to die" (past tense stearf, past participle storfen), from Proto-Germanic *sterban "be stiff" (cf. Old Frisian sterva, Dutch sterven, Old High German sterban "to die," Old Norse stjarfi "tetanus"), from PIE root *ster- "stiff, rigid" (cf. Greek sterphnios "stiff, rigid," sterphos "hide, skin," Old Church Slavonic strublu "strong, hard;" see stare).

The conjugation became weak in English by 16c. The sense narrowed to "die of cold" (14c.); meaning "to kill with hunger" is first recorded 1520s (earlier to starve of hunger, early 12c.). Intransitive sense of "to die of hunger" dates from 1570s. German cognate sterben retains the original sense of the word, but the English has come so far from its origins that starve to death (1910) is now common.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

half-starved in Medicine


  1. To suffer or die from extreme or prolonged lack of food.
  2. To deprive of food so as to cause suffering or death.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.