Meaning of stern


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.

Definitions of stern
  1. adjective

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

    stern face”


    nonindulgent, strict

    characterized by strictness, severity, or restraint
  2. adjective

    severe and unremitting in making demands

    stern disciplinarian”

    exacting, strict


    requiring more than usually expected or thought due; especially great patience and effort and skill
  3. adjective

    severely simple


    austere, severe, stark


    not elaborate or elaborated; simple
  4. adjective

    not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty

    stern demands of parenthood”

    grim, inexorable, relentless, unappeasable, unforgiving, unrelenting


    incapable of being placated
  5. noun

    the rear part of a ship


    after part, poop, quarter, tail

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    type of:

    back, rear

    the side that goes last or is not normally seen

  6. noun

    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

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    type of:

    body part

    any part of an organism such as an organ or extremity

Word Family

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