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From Middle English sterven, from Old English steorfan (to die), from Proto-Germanic *sterbaną (to become stiff, die), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)terp- (to lose strength, become numb, be motionless); or from Proto-Indo-European *sterbʰ- (to become stiff), from *ster- (stiff); or a conflation of the aforementioned. Cognate with Scots sterve (to die, perish), Saterland Frisian stjerwa (to die), West Frisian stjerre (to die), Dutch sterven (to die), German Low German starven (to die), German sterben (to die), Icelandic stirfinn (peevish, froward), Albanian shterp (sterile, unproductive, barren land).



starve (third-person singular simple present starves, present participle starving, simple past starved, past participle starved or (obsolete) starven)

  1. (intransitive, obsolete) To die; in later use especially to die slowly, waste away.
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.i.4:
      noble Britomart / Released her, that else was like to starve, / Through cruell knife that her deare heart did kerue.
  2. (intransitive) To die because of lack of food or of not eating.
    • 1990, quoting Chen Yizi (陳一諮), Children of the Dragon: The Story of Tiananmen Square[1], →ISBN, LCCN 89-49544, OCLC 924759863, page 48:
      During the Cultural Revolution I was exiled to Xincai County in Henan Province. There, 36 percent of the people starved to death in the early 1960s.
    • 2007, Lisa Wingate, A Thousand Voices, page 76:
      "When all of you starve to death, Shasta, don't come crying to me, that's all."
  3. (intransitive) To be very hungry.
    Hey, ma, I'm starving! What's for dinner?
  4. (transitive) To destroy, make capitulate or at least make suffer by deprivation, notably of food.
  5. (transitive) To deprive of nourishment or of some vital component.
    The uncaring parents starved the child of love.
    The patient's brain was starved of oxygen.
  6. (intransitive) To deteriorate for want of any essential thing.
  7. (transitive, Britain, especially Yorkshire and Lancashire) To kill with cold; to (cause to) die from cold.
    I was half starved waiting out in that wind.
    • 1869 February, John Hartley, The original illuminated clock almanack:
      Wheniver he wor starved, he used to get th' seck o' coils ov his back, an' walk raand th' haase till he gat warm agean.
    • 1886, John Heywood, A Queer Supper, 8:
      One i' th' morning an' me starv'd to th' death wi' waitin' up.
    • 1898, J. Arthur Gibbs, A Cotswold Village, 164:
      'Tis these dreadful frostis that spiles everything, / 'Tis enough to sterve anybody.


Derived termsEdit


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