• synonyms


adjective, stark·er, stark·est.
  1. sheer, utter, downright, or complete: stark madness.
  2. harsh, grim, or desolate, as a view, place, etc.: a stark landscape.
  3. extremely simple or severe: a stark interior.
  4. bluntly or sternly plain; not softened or glamorized: the stark reality of the schedule's deadline.
  5. stiff or rigid in substance, muscles, etc.
  6. rigid in death.
  7. Archaic. strong; powerful; massive or robust.
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  1. utterly, absolutely, or quite: stark mad.
  2. Chiefly Scot. and North England. in a stark manner; stoutly or vigorously.
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Origin of stark

before 900; (adj.) Middle English; Old English stearc stiff, firm; cognate with German stark strong; akin to Old Norse sterkr strong; akin to starch, stare; (adv.) Middle English sterke, derivative of the adj.
Related formsstark·ly, adverbstark·ness, noun

Synonym study

2, 3. See austere, bare1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for starkest

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • In Mandeville, and in Kaye, it is presented only in its barest and starkest form.

    A Letter to Dion

    Bernard Mandeville

  • A sea-voyage lays bare many secrets and shows up human nature at its starkest.

    Jan and Her Job

    L. Allen Harker

British Dictionary definitions for starkest


  1. (usually prenominal) devoid of any elaboration; bluntthe stark facts
  2. grim; desolatea stark landscape
  3. (usually prenominal) utter; absolutestark folly
  4. archaic severe; violent
  5. archaic, or poetic rigid, as in death (esp in the phrases stiff and stark, stark dead)
  6. short for stark-naked
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  1. completelystark mad
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Derived Formsstarkly, adverbstarkness, noun

Word Origin

Old English stearc stiff; related to Old Norse sterkr, Gothic gastaurknan to stiffen


  1. (stɑːk) Dame Freya (Madeline) (ˈfreɪə). 1893–1993, British traveller and writer, whose many books include The Southern Gates of Arabia (1936), Beyond Euphrates (1951), and The Journey's Echo (1963)
  2. (German ʃtark) Johannes (joˈhanəs). 1874–1957, German physicist, who discovered the splitting of the lines of a spectrum when the source of light is subjected to a strong electrostatic field (Stark effect, 1913): Nobel prize for physics 1919
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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 starkest



Old English stearc "stiff, strong" (related to starian "to stare"), from Proto-Germanic *starkaz (cf. Old Norse sterkr, Old Frisian sterk, Middle Dutch starc, Old High German starah, German stark, Gothic *starks), from PIE root *ster- "stiff, rigid" (see stare).

Meaning "utter, sheer, complete" first recorded c.1400, perhaps from influence of common phrase stark dead (late 14c.), with stark mistaken as an intensive adjective. Sense of "bare, barren" is from 1833. Stark naked (1520s) is from Middle English start naked (early 13c.), from Old English steort "tail, rump." Hence British slang starkers "naked" (1923).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper