noun, plural se·ver·i·ties.

harshness, sternness, or rigor: Their lives were marked by severity.
austere simplicity, as of style, manner, or taste: The severity of the decor was striking.
intensity or sharpness, as of cold or pain.
grievousness; hard or trying character or effect: The severity of his loss was finally becoming apparent.
rigid exactness or accuracy.
an instance of strict or severe behavior, punishment, etc.

Origin of severity

1475–85; < Latin sevēritās, equivalent to sevēr(us) severe + -itās -ity
Related formsnon·se·ver·i·ty, noun, plural non·se·ver·i·ties.o·ver·se·ver·i·ty, nounsu·per·se·ver·i·ty, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for severities

Historical Examples of severities

  • When I spoke of its severities, she said for us to observe her directions, and we should not suffer.

    Mizora: A Prophecy

    Mary E. Bradley

  • For accounts of French severities, see articles just quoted.

    The New World of Islam

    Lothrop Stoddard

  • During the thirteenth century the severities against the usurers were not relaxed.


    Calvin Elliott

  • What severities of hardship were endured by our traveller may be judged from his description.

    The Great Company

    Beckles Willson

  • Some times I could obtain a little conversation, notwithstanding their severities.

Word Origin and History for severities



late 15c., "austerity or strictness of life," from Middle French severite, from Latin severitas "seriousness, strictness, sternness," from severus "stern, strict, serious," of uncertain origin. Possibly from PIE root *segh- "to have, hold" (see scheme (n.)), or possibly from *se vero "without kindness," from se "without" (see secret) + *vero "kindness," neuter ablative of verus "true" (see very). Meaning "strictness in dealing with others" is recorded from 1520s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper