American English

Definition of severe adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    (severer, severest)
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    very bad
  1. 1extremely bad or serious a severe handicap His injuries are severe. severe weather conditions a severe winter (= one during which the weather conditions are extremely bad) The party suffered severe losses during the last election. a severe shortage of qualified staff severe learning difficulties The victim suffered severe brain damage. a severe case of woodworm Strikes are causing severe disruption to all train services.
  2. punishment
  3. 2severe (on/with somebody) punishing someone in an extreme way when they break a particular set of rules synonym harsh The courts are becoming more severe with young offenders. a severe punishment/sentence
  4. not kind
  5. 3not kind or sympathetic and showing disapproval of someone or something synonym stern a severe expression She was a severe woman who seldom smiled.
  6. very difficult
  7. 4extremely difficult and requiring a lot of skill or ability synonym stiff The marathon is a severe test of stamina.
  8. style/appearance/clothing
  9. 5(disapproving) extremely plain and lacking any decoration Modern furniture is a little too severe for my taste. Her hair was short and severe.
adverb severely disabled areas severely affected by unemployment Anyone breaking the law will be severely punished. a severely critical report Her hair was tied severely in a bun.
noun [uncountable] A prison sentence should match the severity of the crime. The chances of a full recovery will depend on the severity of her injuries. the severity of the problem He frowned with mock severity. The elaborate facade contrasts strongly with the severity of the interior.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: severe