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.

Primary Meanings of stern

of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor; forbidding in aspect
the rear part of a ship
Full Definitions of stern

adj of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor; forbidding in aspect

“a stern face”
nonindulgent, strict
characterized by strictness, severity, or restraint

adj severe and unremitting in making demands

“a stern disciplinarian”
exacting, strict
requiring more than usually expected or thought due; especially great patience and effort and skill

adj severely simple

austere, severe, stark
not elaborate or elaborated; simple

adj not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty

“the stern demands of parenthood”
grim, inexorable, relentless, unappeasable, unforgiving, unrelenting
incapable of being placated

n the rear part of a ship

after part, poop, quarter, tail
Type of:
back, rear
the side that goes last or is not normally seen

n the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on

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
Type of:
body part
any part of an organism such as an organ or extremity

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