adjective, se·ver·er, se·ver·est.

Origin of severe

1540–50; < Latin sevērus, or back formation from severity
Related formsse·vere·ly, adverbse·vere·ness, nouno·ver·se·vere, adjectiveo·ver·se·vere·ly, adverbo·ver·se·vere·ness, nounsu·per·se·vere, adjectivesu·per·se·vere·ly, adverbsu·per·se·vere·ness, nounun·se·vere, adjectiveun·se·vere·ly, adverbun·se·vere·ness, noun

Synonyms for severe

2. strict, hard. See stern1. 4. unadorned. 7. demanding, exacting.

Antonyms for severe

1. lenient. 2. gentle. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for severest

Contemporary Examples of severest

Historical Examples of severest

  • It received the praise of Gifford, the severest of English critics.

    Biographical Sketches

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • It was the fiery ordeal that summons human character to the severest trial.


    William Godwin

  • The severest of the masters, with all his sarcasm, was simply nothing to him.

    The Coast of Bohemia

    William Dean Howells

  • This he said in the severest tone which he knew how to assume.

    Kept in the Dark

    Anthony Trollope

  • The night of the 11th and 12th of November was one of the severest of that terrible winter.

British Dictionary definitions for severest



rigorous or harsh in the treatment of others; stricta severe parent
serious in appearance or manner; stern
critical or dangerousa severe illness
causing misery or discomfort by its harshnesssevere weather
strictly restrained in appearance; austerea severe way of dressing
hard to endure, perform, or accomplisha severe test
rigidly precise or exact
Derived Formsseverely, adverbsevereness or severity (sɪˈvɛrɪtɪ), noun

Word Origin for severe

C16: from Latin sevērus
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 severest



1540s, from Middle French severe (12c., Modern French sévère) or directly from Latin severus "serious, grave, strict, austere" (see severity). From 1660s with reference to styles or tastes; from 1725 of diseases.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper