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Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English stern, sterne, sturne, from Old English styrne (stern, grave, strict, austere, hard, severe, cruel), from Proto-Germanic *sturnijaz (angry, astonished, shocked), from Proto-Indo-European *ster-, *ter- (rigid, stiff). Cognate with Scots stern (bold, courageous, fierce, resolute), Old High German stornēn (to be astonished), Dutch stuurs (glum, austere), Swedish stursk (insolent).



stern (comparative sterner, superlative sternest)

  1. Having a hardness and severity of nature or manner.
    • 1593, [William Shakespeare], Venvs and Adonis, London: Imprinted by Richard Field, [], OCLC 837166078, [verse 17]; 2nd edition, London: Imprinted by Richard Field, [], 1594, OCLC 701755207, lines [97–100]:
      I haue beene wooed, as I intreat thee now, / Euen by the ſterne, and direfull God of warre, / VVhoſe ſinowie necke in battel nere did bow, / VVho conquers where he comes in euery iarre; []
    • John Dryden
      stern as tutors, and as uncles hard
    • 2013 June 22, “Snakes and ladders”, in The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 76:
      Risk is everywhere. From tabloid headlines insisting that coffee causes cancer (yesterday, of course, it cured it) to stern government warnings about alcohol and driving, the world is teeming with goblins.
  2. Grim and forbidding in appearance.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Etymology 2Edit

Most likely from Old Norse stjórn (control, steering), related to stýra (to steer), from Proto-Germanic *stiurijaną, whence also English steer. Also possibly from Old Frisian stiarne (rudder), from the same Germanic root.


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stern (plural sterns)

Stern of the VOC ship 'Amsterdam' (replica)
  1. (nautical) The rear part or after end of a ship or vessel.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 7, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      Old Applegate, in the stern, just set and looked at me, and Lord James, amidship, waved both arms and kept hollering for help. I took a couple of everlasting big strokes and managed to grab hold of the skiff's rail, close to the stern.
  2. (figuratively) The post of management or direction.
  3. The hinder part of anything.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)
  4. The tail of an animal; now used only of the tail of a dog.
Derived termsEdit
See alsoEdit

Etymology 3Edit

From a variant of tern.


stern (plural sterns)

  1. A bird, the black tern.


Middle EnglishEdit


stern (plural sternes)

  1. Alternative form of sterne




From Old High German sterno, from Proto-Germanic *sternǭ, from Proto-Indo-European *h₂stḗr.


stern m

  1. star (luminous dot appearing in the night sky)


  • Anthony R. Rowley, Liacht as de sproch: Grammatica della lingua mòchena Deutsch-Fersentalerisch, TEMI, 2003.