famine

A famine is a severe shortage of food, but not the "I forgot to go to the grocery store and there's nothing to eat in the house" type of shortage. A famine is usually caused by crop failure or disaster.

Although the "extreme shortage of food" meaning is most common, the noun famine can also mean any shortage or insufficiency, and it is often used idiomatically in the phrase "feast or famine." This usage refers to something that is alternately plentiful and scarce — like the feast and famine experienced by an artist who only occasionally sells his paintings.

Definitions of famine
  1. noun
    a severe shortage of food (as through crop failure) resulting in violent hunger and starvation and death
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    types:
    the Great Calamity, the Great Hunger, the Great Starvation, the Irish Famine
    a famine in Ireland resulting from a potato blight; between 1846 and 1851 a million people starved to death and 1.6 million emigrated (most to America)
    type of:
    calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, disaster, tragedy
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
  2. noun
    an acute insufficiency
    synonyms: dearth, shortage
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    type of:
    deficiency, lack, want
    the state of needing something that is absent or unavailable
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