/ ˌʌndəˈnʌrɪʃ /


  1. tr; usually passive to deprive of or fail to provide with nutrients essential for health and growth

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Derived Forms

  • ˌunderˈnourishment, noun


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More About Undernourish

What does undernourish mean?

To undernourish is to fail to provide (or intentionally withhold) enough food or nutrients for someone to grow and develop in a healthy way.

The verb nourish means to promote healthy growth—to provide enough of what’s needed for someone or something to be healthy and to grow and develop. Nourish is most commonly used in relation to food, but can be used in figurative ways that don’t involve food: education nourishes our minds; a vacation can nourish our spirit.

Undernourish can also be used in these figurative ways, but it is usually used in the context of nutrition, especially in relation to children who are not provided with enough nourishing food. Such children are often described with the adjective undernourished. The adjective malnourished is similar but is often used in more extreme cases involving malnutrition.

It’s also possible to use undernourish in the context of other living things that require nutrients, such as plants.

Example: If we fail to provide healthy lunches that are available to all children, we will end up undernourishing our students.

Where does undernourish come from?

The word nourish comes from the Latin verb nūtrīre, meaning “to feed” or “to care for.” The words nurture, nutrition, nutritious, and nurse are based on the same root. In undernourish, the prefix under- indicates insufficiency. It’s used the same way in the synonym underfeed.

Describing someone as undernourished most commonly means that they have not been provided with enough nutrients. Describing someone as malnourished can mean this, but it can also mean their diet is unhealthy overall, perhaps due to having too much unhealthy food or to having a digestive disorder. Still, the words are often used in overlapping ways.

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What are some other forms related to undernourish?

What are some synonyms for undernourish?

What are some words that share a root or word element with undernourish

What are some words that often get used in discussing undernourish?

How is undernourish used in real life?

Undernourish is most commonly used in contexts involving people who do not have access to enough healthy food.


Try using undernourish!

Is undernourish used correctly in the following sentence?

Don’t undernourish yourself just to chase some unattainable beauty goals.