Definition of severe in English:



  • 1(of something bad or undesirable) very great; intense.

    ‘a severe shortage of technicians’
    ‘a severe attack of asthma’
    ‘damage is not too severe’
    • ‘Mrs Al-Munchi is believed to have suffered a severe asthma attack earlier in the day.’
    • ‘Some people with asthma never have a severe attack, only a little wheezing or the occasional bout of coughing.’
    • ‘One of the major disincentives is the severe shortage of competent technical and managerial staff.’
    • ‘Very rarely, a person with asthma will have a severe attack in which none of the treatments work and the attack continues to get worse.’
    • ‘Seemingly cataclysmic, its occurrence prevented a far more severe and intense shock in the future as French society slowly adjusted to the strains and stresses of modernization.’
    • ‘A girl died from a severe asthma attack that may have been triggered by bullying, an inquest heard.’
    • ‘She's in intensive care with a severe head injury.’
    • ‘District councils are braced for severe cash shortages next year when changes designed to simplify funding are likely to leave them seriously out of pocket.’
    • ‘People at the scene, at about 9.30 pm when the fire was noticed, were beaten back from the house by intense black smoke and severe heat.’
    • ‘The reaction from the employees and audiences, however, was intense and severe.’
    • ‘Another man, in his 20s, was airlifted to Basildon Hospital where he is in intensive care with a severe head injury and with a broken arm and leg.’
    • ‘Here at home, millions face starvation due to severe food shortages - the result of bad governance in our country.’
    • ‘The baby spent 19 days in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit with severe brain damage, resulting in permanent disabilities.’
    • ‘The pain is of severe intensity and lasts anywhere from 15 to 180 minutes.’
    • ‘In a separate section, the report reveals that farmed halibut, sea bass and sea bream can suffer from severe cataracts when reared intensively, causing blindness and corneal bleeding.’
    • ‘In all animals, retinal light damage was the most severe when intense light exposure began during the dark period.’
    • ‘I also had severe difficulty during intense exercise.’
    • ‘Training with high intensity can lead to severe muscle damage and soreness.’
    • ‘Henry Bartlam was only six weeks old when he suffered a severe asthma attack which nearly killed him.’
    • ‘However a few people with psoriasis have a more severe form that requires intensive medical and nursing care.’
    excruciating, agonizing, violent, intense, dreadful, awful, terrible, frightful, unbearable, intolerable, unendurable
    acute, very bad, serious, grave, critical, dire, drastic, grievous, extreme, dreadful, terrible, awful, frightful, appalling, sore
    fierce, violent, strong, wild, powerful, forceful, intense
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    1. 1.1Demanding great ability, skill, or resilience.
      ‘a severe test of stamina’
      • ‘Little's fundraising skills were put to a severe test.’
      • ‘Despite the severe physical demands of his work, Tse said that he at least found his heart at ease because of the genuine contentment he derives from his work.’
      • ‘Jose Mourinho's managerial skills would face a severe test.’
      • ‘His powers of recollection will undergo a severe test this week.’
      • ‘The matches, all played in front of crowds in the impressive Hong Kong stadium, combine fast-handling rugby with severe tests of stamina.’
      • ‘This year the smaller bell tower was unveiled and a freak hail storm earlier this year was its first severe test.’
      • ‘The home team were comfortable winners over Fahy Rovers on Sunday and they will provide Erris with a severe test in the next round.’
      • ‘Such an austere destination was, he warned, far more elusive, demanding severe discipline and total renunciation.’
      • ‘In fact, although at times he attempted to abstain from sex for the benefit of his art, Matisse found chastity a severe test.’
      • ‘This post is therefore a severe test of that resolution and fortitude.’
      • ‘Barton faces a severe test, with the likes of Seebald and Fondmort among the opposition for an event which could well be the race of the meeting.’
      • ‘The period was earlier this year and has been a severe test for China's transportation system and also for the passengers.’
      • ‘Henderson is expecting a severe test next weekend, arguing that both English centres bring more than hard, straight running.’
      • ‘His strong, direct running and sturdy defence could be vital to the Irish cause on a day their rearguard faces a severe test.’
      • ‘Animals that fly in the air have still other similarities dictated by the severe demands of flight.’
      • ‘The historic meeting will be a severe test of the president's nerve.’
      • ‘Number three is a shorter 5,252 yard, par 68, but is a severe test of accurate shot making.’
      • ‘And Jewell knows he is now facing up to a severe test of his managerial skills as Wigan aim to set off on a winning run.’
      • ‘These exams were undoubtedly among of the most severe mathematical tests.’
      • ‘After their crushing victory over Limerick, Tipperary were expected to provide Kerry with a severe test.’
      very difficult, demanding, hard, tough, arduous, formidable, taxing, exacting, rigorous, punishing, onerous, gruelling, burdensome, heavy
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  • 2Strict or harsh.

    ‘the charges would have warranted a severe sentence’
    ‘he is unusually severe on what he regards as tendentious pseudo-learning’
    • ‘There are far more severe punishments than capital punishment.’
    • ‘He demanded severe action against those guilty officers.’
    • ‘She deserves a much more severe punishment because that child will be suffering the effects of the mother's behaviors for its entire life.’
    • ‘After all, the one to whom he said this had apparently committed a crime that deserved the most severe punishment available, crucifixion.’
    • ‘I hope that when the culprits are caught, they are given the most severe punishment available to the courts.’
    • ‘In this reform, Shang Yang emphasized severe punishments, believing that draconian penalties helped to prevent crimes.’
    • ‘The executive member said people in society felt as though there was no severe punishment for capital offences.’
    • ‘We bore harsh criticism for our efforts and some of us suffered severe punishment.’
    • ‘These are very serious and grave matters which call for severe punishment.’
    • ‘Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boiko Borissov has proposed severe punishments for everyone involved in illegal logging.’
    • ‘The four men lied their way onto the premises, and afterwards committed heinous crimes, which deserved severe punishment, said Coetzee.’
    • ‘Earlier this year, a similar bill was rejected by the council because it called for the death penalty as the most severe punishment for anyone convicted by the tribunal.’
    • ‘In 221 AD, Zhang was killed by his generals because they couldn't fulfil an impossible mission and feared severe punishment.’
    • ‘Judge Openshaw said: ‘These are, in our judgment, disgraceful offences which deserve severe punishment.’’
    • ‘But the most important way to tackle the issue is to conduct surprise inspections frequently and impose severe punishment on the guilty.’
    • ‘The contracts threaten severe punishment for any such breach.’
    • ‘These soldiers - who had long since regretted their actions - would likely face severe punishment from the American authorities.’
    • ‘Certainly, there should be stricter laws and more severe punishments for breaking them, if we want to live in a violence-free society.’
    • ‘Even if many who have transgressed as he did avoid a term in prison, I believe when his name was placed on the register it was a more severe punishment than any custodial sentence.’
    • ‘It was a strict regime and punishments were severe.’
    strict, stern, rigorous, harsh, hard, inflexible, uncompromising, inexorable, implacable, rigid, unbending, relentless, unrelenting, unyielding, merciless, pitiless, ruthless, draconian, oppressive, repressive, punitive, rough, nasty
    extortionate, excessive, unreasonable, inordinate, outrageous, sky-high, harsh, stiff
    harsh, hard, bitter, bitterly cold, cold, bleak, freezing, icy, arctic, polar, siberian, extreme, nasty
    harsh, scathing, sharp, strong, fierce, ferocious, stringent, savage, blistering, searing, stinging, scorching, devastating, mordant, trenchant, caustic, biting, cutting, withering, rigorous, unsparing
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  • 3Very plain in style or appearance.

    ‘she wore another severe suit, gray this time’
    • ‘In the 1850s, Thomas Holt had designed the main building for Peace College in Raleigh in a severe neo-classical style.’
    • ‘The lighting is very bright which together with the high-tech wine dispensing machinery makes Vino Venue appear clinical and severe.’
    • ‘Ramirez caught up with him outside a severe door of grey metal.’
    • ‘S. Carlo championed a severe style of painting while Federico founded the Ambrosiana and donated his own collection to that institution in 1618.’
    • ‘As always, his attiring room looked windswept and severe: a plain chest, a narrow mirror, a low divan spread with furs.’
    • ‘From 1936 to 1939 he worked for the Federal Art Project, painting several abstract murals in a severe geometrical style.’
    • ‘A girl in a rather severe suit wanted to see his driver's licence as proof of identity.’
    • ‘He wears impeccably tailored suits in the traditional, severe Soviet style.’
    • ‘Of simple, indeed severe, design, it is informative to compare it to the second font which was carved in 1225.’
    plain, simple, restrained, unadorned, undecorated, unembellished, unornamented, austere, chaste, spare, stark, ultra-plain, unfussy, without frills, spartan, ascetic, monastic, puritanical
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Mid 16th century ( severe): from French sévère or Latin severus.