Definition of famine in English:



mass noun
  • 1Extreme scarcity of food.

    ‘drought resulted in famine throughout the region’
    count noun ‘the famine of 1921–2’
    • ‘But there is no doubt that the number of deaths from famine and from the results of malnutrition were at least of the order associated with the great famines of the past.’
    • ‘The Chipini region in Africa is also been hit by drought and famine and the local committee has appealed for support.’
    • ‘In general, beech nuts have been regarded as food for humans in times of famine or scarcity.’
    • ‘Such societies suffer from periodic shortages and high levels of bacterial contamination, resulting in famine, disease and death.’
    • ‘For example, warring factions often induce drought and famine through the use of scorched-earth tactics.’
    • ‘He argues that famine is not caused by lack of food, but by an increased inability of the poor to afford it.’
    • ‘This disruption to farming in Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Southern Africa, comes as millions of people in the region face famine.’
    • ‘That nation is suffering famine as a result of civil war and anarchy.’
    • ‘There are economists who will tell you that peace and government prevent famine more effectively than food aid does.’
    • ‘In a region noted for drought, famine, climatic extreme and racked by a 30-year civil war, the findings were almost unbelievable.’
    • ‘In Italy and Greece serious food shortages almost produced famine in 1943-4.’
    • ‘Every time there has been a civil war or famine in Africa the result has been a stream of human misery in the hundreds of thousands if not millions.’
    • ‘A poorly thought out redistribution policy could result in famine and disaster similar to what has happened in Zimbabwe.’
    • ‘As a result of the war, in addition to drought and famine, more than 750,000 left their country as refugees.’
    • ‘Twenty years after images of starving Ethiopian children shocked the world, famine and drought continue to stalk this African nation.’
    • ‘It's the government chaos and resulting famine that is responsible for the AIDS crisis.’
    • ‘An estimated 10 million are facing starvation throughout the southern region of Africa due to famine and drought.’
    • ‘Faced with severe drought, lack of food security is creating conditions of famine.’
    • ‘In Southern Africa, flood years have been followed by drought years causing widespread famine and death in the region.’
    • ‘At present half the population, 6.7 million people, are facing food shortages due to famine.’
    scarcity of food, food shortages
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1count noun A shortage.
      ‘the cotton famine of the 1860s’
      • ‘According to Dayton, famines, floods and drastic temperature changes will accompany the melting trend and impact humans directly.’
      • ‘For decades Kalahandi has been synonymous with droughts, famines, starvation and poverty.’
      • ‘Most of us do not occupy ourselves extensively with thoughts of the misery of others but are focused on improving our own condition, however favourably it compares with the victims of wars and famines.’
      • ‘Major natural disasters, wars, famines, substantial losses in the terms of trade or HIV / AIDS can, like governments, create bad incentives, which in turn destroy growth.’
      • ‘Not one of its major predictions has come true: There have been no global famines, no cancer epidemics, no massive resource depletion.’
      • ‘Indeed, if fasting is not a healthy option for willing participants, alternative famines - going without technology or speaking - are available.’
      • ‘Being an aged citizen of times long gone, I can recall my old grandad telling me about how the American Civil War brought about a cotton famine in the Lancashire mills.’
      • ‘The massive emigration of Basques to Latin America, brought about by the famines of the 18th century, created a labour shortage.’
      • ‘So when you think about the wars, the famines, the strife, the terrors that we face on a daily basis doesn't it make sense to explore the benefits of cloning?’
      • ‘Poverty, adversarial weather conditions, including recurrent famines and lack of resources are some factors, which push parents against the wall.’
      • ‘While we're well past the ‘plant by’ date for peas, beans are definitely into their season, and wise gardeners may have already commenced a programme of succession planting to avoid gluts and famines.’
      • ‘Over the years, propaganda chiefs had covered up famines and corruption, and continued to ban any mention of ‘historical errors’, he claimed.’
      • ‘Experts believe that the North Korean system is in terminal decline, and its people suffer great poverty and recurring famines.’
      • ‘The Sisters of Charity quickly became familiar with the problems of the district, including its population, which had endured the effects of numerous famines, and whom by this time were stricken by poverty in the extreme.’
      • ‘North Korea's increasingly serious problem of feeding its population, famines, as well as its nuclear and missile programmes, have all led to a renewed interest in the country.’
      • ‘Even so, a cash famine imprisoned much of the population in poverty.’
      • ‘Authoritarian rulers, who are themselves rarely affected by famines, tend to lack the incentive to take timely preventative measures.’
      • ‘For most of history, journalists could afford to spend their time covering wars, famines, politics and business.’
      • ‘The gruesome massacres and murders, the famines and disease, the corruption and suffering of post-colonial Africa have deepened the darkness.’
      • ‘He also credits television images with increasing the empathy of the young in rich countries for the effects of poverty, famines, and civil wars in poorer areas of the world.’
      shortage, scarcity, lack, dearth, want, deficiency, insufficiency, shortfall, undersupply, scantiness, rareness, paucity, poverty, drought, unavailability
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2archaic Hunger.
      • ‘Once, the mass of men worked to stave off hunger and famine; now it's coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes that they have to worry about.’
      • ‘The world's history records that hunger and famine can seriously hurt societies.’
      lack of food, need for food, hungriness, ravenousness, emptiness
      View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Old French, from faim ‘hunger’, from Latin fames.