[ uhn-der-nur-isht, -nuhr- ]
/ ˌʌn dərˈnɜr ɪʃt, -ˈnʌr- /
Save This Word!

not nourished with sufficient or proper food to maintain or promote health or normal growth.
not given essential elements for proper development:emotionally undernourished.


Click for a side-by-side comparison of meanings. Use the word comparison feature to learn the differences between similar and commonly confused words.
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of undernourished

First recorded in 1925–30; under- + nourish + -ed2

OTHER WORDS FROM undernourished

un·der·nour·ish·ment, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does undernourished mean?

Undernourished is an adjective that means not provided with enough food or nutrients to grow and develop in a healthy way.

It comes from the past tense of the verb undernourish, meaning to fail to provide (or intentionally withhold) enough food or nutrients.

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

It’s also possible to use undernourished 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 with a lot of undernourished students.

Where does undernourished come from?

The first records of the adjective undernourished come from the early 1900s. 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 underfed.

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.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to undernourished?

What are some synonyms for undernourished?

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

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

How is undernourished used in real life?

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



Try using undernourished!

Is undernourished used correctly in the following sentence?

Cutting calories just to chase some unattainable beauty goal will leave you undernourished and unhealthy.

How to use undernourished in a sentence