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 starkly

Contemporary Examples of starkly

Historical Examples of starkly

  • It was a wild attempt to secure proof of the starkly impossible.

    Creatures of the Abyss

    Murray Leinster

  • The day of reckoning came, and the "fat of the land" stared us starkly in the face.

  • But life is life and starkly real if not essentially earnest.

    Rainy Week

    Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

  • Then in that seething funnel there was waged a starkly fantastic conflict.


    Edward Elmer Smith

  • And the promontories of the sea gate were starkly clear in the growing light.

    Key Out of Time

    Andre Alice Norton

British Dictionary definitions for starkly



(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 starkly



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