If you've ever had a teacher who was particularly stern and strict, you might have (quietly) remarked on his austerity. When you're talking about the character of a person, austerity means "sternness and severity."

Austerity's original meaning, taken from the Greek word austeros, was "bitter or harsh taste." While it's rarely used that way anymore, it's still a great description of the word's current meanings. As well as describing a personal quality of sternness, it also means "a simple, plain manner" and "an extreme frugality." So you could talk about the austerity of a very plainly decorated room or the austerity you're forced to live with ever since your parents stopped giving you a weekly allowance. If your lack of money had a taste, it might very well be "bitter or harsh."

Definitions of austerity

n the trait of great self-denial (especially refraining from worldly pleasures)

asceticism, nonindulgence
asceticism as a form of religious life; usually conducted in a community under a common rule and characterized by celibacy and poverty and obedience
monasticism characterized by solitude in which the social dimension of life is sacrificed to the primacy of religious experience
Type of:
self-denial, self-discipline
the trait of practicing self discipline

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