sterner; sternest; sterns

You know when you've done something really wrong, and the person who gets you in trouble has that unforgiving look on his face? The best word for that look is stern, meaning "strict" or "severe."

Stern, strict, severe, harsh, unforgiving — they all more or less mean the same thing, which is very tough and exacting, with a little helping of seriousness thrown in for good measure. What does this have to do with the stern of a boat, also known as the rear area? Um, nothing? But it's good to know about that meaning too, since it could come in handy some day when you're giving directions on a ship.

Definitions of stern
  1. adjective
    of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor; forbidding in aspect
    “a stern face”
    synonyms: austere
    nonindulgent, strict
    characterized by strictness, severity, or restraint
  2. adjective
    severe and unremitting in making demands
    “a stern disciplinarian”
    synonyms: exacting, strict
    requiring more than usually expected or thought due; especially great patience and effort and skill
  3. adjective
    severely simple
    synonyms: austere, severe, stark
    not elaborate or elaborated; simple
  4. adjective
    not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty
    “the stern demands of parenthood”
    synonyms: grim, inexorable, relentless, unappeasable, unforgiving, unrelenting
    incapable of being placated
  5. noun
    the rear part of a ship
    synonyms: after part, poop, quarter, tail
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    type of:
    back, rear
    the side that goes last or is not normally seen
  6. noun
    the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on
    synonyms: ass, backside, behind, bottom, bum, buns, butt, buttocks, can, derriere, fanny, fundament, hind end, hindquarters, keister, nates, posterior, prat, rear, rear end, rump, seat, tail, tail end, tooshie, tush
    see moresee less
    type of:
    body part
    any part of an organism such as an organ or extremity
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘stern'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
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