The Meaning of Austere: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of austere? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word austere, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word austere mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word austere is an adjective that means stern and cold in appearance, somber in demeanor, morally strict, or markedly simple or free of ornament or adornment in aesthetic. Many things can be austere, including an austere expression, austere decoration, austere life, austere teacher, austere retreats, austere appearance, or austere people, among other examples. Things that are austere are marked by acerbity. For example, an austere home might have a stark interior or strict bearing. There is no excess decor within the home. Such auster conditions might imply a lack of self-indulgence or great devotions to thriftiness. Someone with an austere disposition might live a spartan existence or have strict discipline. 

Many different languages also contain words that mean austere. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases that have a similar meaning while looking and sounding similar between languages. Cognates are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations for the word austere is provided by Word Sense

  •  Romanian: auster‎ (masc.) (n)
  •  Hungarian: szigorú‎
  •  Italian: austero‎ (masc.)
  •  Czech: strohý‎ (masc.)
  •  Spanish: severo‎
  •  Russian: стро́гий‎, суро́вый‎
  •  Dutch: streng‎, droog‎
  •  Portuguese: (Brazil) severo‎, austero‎
  •  Bulgarian: строг‎ (stróg), суров‎ (suróv)

What is the origin of the word austere?

According to Etymonline, the word austere has been used since the early 14th century. This comes from the Old French austere meaning strict or severe. This is a 13th century word that has transformed into the Modern French austère. This comes directly from the Latin austērus and the Greek ​austēros and the Ancient Greek αὐστηρός, or αὖος ​αὔω. These were originally used to describe dry and bitter wines and fruits. This has come to be used figuratively to mean harsh or bitter. This comes from the Proto-Indo-European root saus meaning dry. The word austere has been used since the late 14th century to mean severe or rigid, and since the 1590s to mean unadorned or simple. It has been used since the 1660s to mean grave or sober. Using this word in the literal sense is rare nowadays in English and has not been used since Middle English. Related words include austerely (adv.), austerity (n.) and austereness (n.), formed from the suffixes ty, ly, and ness.  

How can the word austere be used in a sentence?

The word austere can be used in many different contexts. Below are a few examples of the word austere.

The desert nomad’s austere life led him to be wary of any sort of big gathering, but he was in great self-denial.

The editor was put off by the austere writing style.

The woman had an austere quality of life, which her stern face, composure, and spartan diet made clear.

The interior of the church had such austere conditions that the parishioners were worried it couldn’t be repaired in time for the big dance. 

The austere crab apple made her tongue dry; she felt it would make austere wine, not the sweet drink she hoped for.

The headmistress was an austere old woman who could have had supreme beauty if she tried. 

The sculpture had an austere look to it, indicative of the art of its time.

The austere economy did not allow for the foreign aid agency to offer a substantial salary, which led many people to opt for jobs at private enterprises with abundant savings instead of low-budget options.

Political trifles and constant protest can lead to an austere human condition and deep concern. 

Air Force professionals often have an austere way of life due to their way of survival in the force. It takes great insight to break down this artifice. 

A life of incessant tests and mathematics caused William James to be quite austere; it took great transformation to reveal his liberalization and a whole new level of fun.

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word austere?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word austere. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a great way to expand your English language vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word austere is provided by Thesaurus

  •  somber
  •  self-denying
  •  exacting
  •  stringent
  •  spartan
  •  hard
  •  strict
  •  unadorned
  •  continent
  •  dour
  •  unrelenting
  •  solemn
  •  formal
  •  abstemious
  •  ascetic
  •  inexorable
  •  puritanical
  •  bleak
  •  bald
  •  obdurate
  •  rigorous
  •  straightlaced
  •  economical
  •  subdued
  •  primitive
  •  earnest
  •  plain
  •  simple
  •  stark
  •  cold
  •  severe
  •  clean
  •  vanilla
  •  grim
  •  chaste
  •  inflexible
  •  self-disciplined
  •  forbidding
  •  rustic
  •  stiff
  •  bare
  •  sober
  •  grave
  •  unfeeling
  •  harsh
  •  serious
  •  spare
  •  unembellished
  •  astringent
  •  stern
  •  rigid
  •  bare-bones

There are also numerous different words that have the opposite meaning as the word austere. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms is another great way to improve your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word austere is provided by Thesaurus as well. 

  •  at peace
  •  fantastic
  •  spendthrift
  •  waveless
  •  expensive
  •  overpriced
  •  undisturbed
  •  extravagant
  •  breezeless
  •  dove-like
  •  benign
  •  harmonious
  •  quiescent
  •  implausible
  •  flamboyant
  •  imprudent
  •  ridiculous
  •  gentle
  •  in order
  •  crazy
  •  flashy
  •  ludicrous
  •  stormless
  •  showy
  •  amiable
  •  still
  •  prodigal
  •  softhearted
  •  fanciful
  •  disciplined
  •  soothing
  •  exaggerated
  •  extreme
  •  warmhearted
  •  halcyon
  •  tame
  •  manageable
  •  bucolic
  •  pliable
  •  inactive
  •  laid back
  •  sweet-tempered
  •  pleasant
  •  at a standstill
  •  pleasing
  •  hushed
  •  mild
  •  extortionate
  •  inordinate
  •  merciful
  •  cool
  •  lavish
  •  trained
  •  pretentious
  •  easy
  •  exorbitant
  •  pastoral
  •  preposterous
  •  grandiose
  •  unbalanced
  •  ornate
  •  smooth
  •  slow
  •  unruffled
  •  foolish
  •  genial
  •  kindly
  •  steep
  •  low-key
  •  temperate
  •  immoderate
  •  tractable
  •  humane
  •  reposing
  •  placid
  •  ostentatious
  •  excessive
  •  absurd
  •  unconscionable
  •  biddable
  •  gaudy
  •  pacific
  •  motionless
  •  soft
  •  serene
  •  garish
  •  agreeable
  •  costly
  •  bizarre
  •  rural
  •  tender
  •  mellow
  •  tranquil
  •  restful
  •  sympathetic
  •  peaceful
  •  reckless
  •  outrageous
  •  domesticated
  •  reposeful
  •  cultivated
  •  profligate
  •  windless
  •  breathless
  •  affable
  •  considerate
  •  docile
  •  lenient
  •  quiet
  •  bland
  •  fancy
  •  unrestrained
  •  nonsensical
  •  compassionate
  •  meek
  •  silly
  •  taught
  •  improvident
  •  unreasonable
  •  moderate

Overall, the word austere means harsh, strict or severe. Many things can be austere, including austere meals, austere fruit, an austere master, austere exile, austere deportment, an austere vision of matter, or even the austere figure of a puritan minister. This word can describe the lack of trivial decoration as well as some ascetic character, or gangly figure with high standards – someone who is austere likely will not have a great sense of humour. 


  1. austere: meaning, origin, translation  | Word Sense
  2. AUSTERE Synonyms: 92 Synonyms & Antonyms for AUSTERE | Thesaurus 
  3. EXTRAVAGANT Synonyms: 76 Synonyms & Antonyms for EXTRAVAGANT | Thesaurus 
  4. austere | Origin and meaning of austere | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Austere | Definition of Austere | Merriam-Webster