[ suh-veer ]
See synonyms for: severeseverely on

adjective,se·ver·er, se·ver·est.
  1. harsh; unnecessarily extreme: severe criticism; severe laws.

  2. serious or stern in manner or appearance: a severe face.

  1. threatening a seriously bad outcome or involving serious issues; grave: a severe illness.

  2. rigidly restrained in style, taste, manner, etc.; simple, plain, or austere.

  3. causing discomfort or distress by extreme character or conditions, as weather, cold, or heat; unpleasantly violent, as rain or wind, or a blow or shock.

  4. difficult to endure, perform, fulfill, etc.: a severe test of his powers.

  5. rigidly exact, accurate, or methodical: severe standards.

Origin of severe

First recorded in 1540–50; from Latin sevērus, or back formation from severity

synonym study For severe

2. See stern1.

Other words for severe

Opposites for severe

Other words from severe

  • se·vere·ly, adverb
  • se·vere·ness, noun
  • o·ver·se·vere, adjective
  • o·ver·se·vere·ness, noun
  • su·per·se·vere, adjective
  • su·per·se·vere·ness, noun
  • un·se·vere, adjective
  • un·se·vere·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use severe in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for severe


/ (sɪˈvɪə) /

  1. rigorous or harsh in the treatment of others; strict: a severe parent

  2. serious in appearance or manner; stern

  1. critical or dangerous: a severe illness

  2. causing misery or discomfort by its harshness: severe weather

  3. strictly restrained in appearance; austere: a severe way of dressing

  4. hard to endure, perform, or accomplish: a severe test

  5. rigidly precise or exact

Origin of severe

C16: from Latin sevērus

Derived forms of severe

  • severely, adverb
  • severeness or severity (sɪˈvɛrɪtɪ), noun

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