See more synonyms for starve on
verb (used without object), starved, starv·ing.
  1. to die or perish from lack of food or nourishment.
  2. to be in the process of perishing or suffering severely from hunger.
  3. to suffer from extreme poverty and need.
  4. to feel a strong need or desire: The child was starving for affection.
  5. Chiefly British Dialect. to perish or suffer extremely from cold.
  6. Obsolete. to die.
verb (used with object), starved, starv·ing.
  1. to cause to starve; kill, weaken, or reduce by lack of food.
  2. to subdue, or force to some condition or action, by hunger: to starve a besieged garrison into a surrender.
  3. to cause to suffer for lack of something needed or craved.
  4. Chiefly British Dialect. to cause to perish, or to suffer extremely, from cold.

Origin of starve

before 1000; Middle English sterven, Old English steorfan to die; cognate with German sterben
Related formshalf-starved, adjectivehalf-starv·ing, adjectiveself-starved, adjectiveun·starved, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for starve

Contemporary Examples of starve

Historical Examples of starve

  • We would do anything in our power for Sergeant Wilde and for the cause, but we cannot starve!'

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • Old, a lot of them, and gettin' well to go out and starve, and—My God!


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • You may hang a man if you like, but you have no right to starve him.

  • Content to starve, content to freeze, if only he need not be carried into captivity.

    The Village Watch-Tower

    (AKA Kate Douglas Riggs) Kate Douglas Wiggin

  • Leaving me here hungry and thirsty and tired, to starve, for anything they care!

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for starve


  1. to die or cause to die from lack of food
  2. to deprive (a person or animal) or (of a person, etc) to be deprived of food
  3. (intr) informal to be very hungry
  4. (foll by of or for) to deprive or be deprived (of something necessary), esp so as to cause suffering or malfunctioningthe engine was starved of fuel
  5. (tr foll by into) to bring (to) a specified condition by starvingto starve someone into submission
  6. archaic to be or cause to be extremely cold
Derived Formsstarver, noun

Word Origin for starve

Old English steorfan to die; related to Old Frisian sterva to die, Old High German sterban to die
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 starve

Old English steorfan "to die" (past tense stearf, past participle storfen), from Proto-Germanic *sterban "be stiff" (cf. Old Frisian sterva, Dutch sterven, Old High German sterban "to die," Old Norse stjarfi "tetanus"), from PIE root *ster- "stiff, rigid" (cf. Greek sterphnios "stiff, rigid," sterphos "hide, skin," Old Church Slavonic strublu "strong, hard;" see stare).

The conjugation became weak in English by 16c. The sense narrowed to "die of cold" (14c.); meaning "to kill with hunger" is first recorded 1520s (earlier to starve of hunger, early 12c.). Intransitive sense of "to die of hunger" dates from 1570s. German cognate sterben retains the original sense of the word, but the English has come so far from its origins that starve to death (1910) is now common.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

starve in Medicine


  1. To suffer or die from extreme or prolonged lack of food.
  2. To deprive of food so as to cause suffering or death.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.