adjective, stark·er, stark·est.


utterly, absolutely, or quite: stark mad.
Chiefly Scot. and North England. in a stark manner; stoutly or vigorously.

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for starkest

Contemporary Examples of starkest

  • Eventually, in perhaps the starkest act of discrimination here, much of the road was closed to Palestinians altogether in 1994.

    The Daily Beast logo
    "Obama, Come Here To Hebron"

    Ali Gharib

    March 20, 2013

  • “It allows us to frame the contrast in the starkest terms possible,” a senior leadership aide said.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Democrats Target Millionaires

    Patricia Murphy

    October 7, 2011

Historical Examples of starkest

  • 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



(usually prenominal) devoid of any elaboration; bluntthe stark facts
grim; desolatea stark landscape
(usually prenominal) utter; absolutestark folly
archaic severe; violent
archaic, or poetic rigid, as in death (esp in the phrases stiff and stark, stark dead)
short for stark-naked


completelystark mad
Derived Formsstarkly, adverbstarkness, noun

Word Origin for stark

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



(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)
(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
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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper