- 1 extremely 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. punishment
- 2 severe (on/with somebody) punishing somebody in an extreme way when they break a particular set of rules synonym harsh The courts are becoming more severe on young offenders. a severe punishment/sentence not kind
- 3 not kind or sympathetic and showing disapproval of somebody/something synonym stern a severe expression She was a severe woman who seldom smiled. very difficult
- 4extremely difficult and requiring a lot of skill or ability synonym stiff The marathon is a severe test of stamina. style/appearance/clothing
- 5(disapproving) extremely plain and lacking any decoration Modern furniture is a little too severe for my taste. Her hair was short and severe. Word Origin mid 16th cent. (in sense (2)): from French sévère or Latin severus.Extra examples an exceptionally severe frost women affected by mild to moderately severe symptoms A severe storm blew the ship off course. Anyone found using drugs will receive severe punishment. Even in the south it was an unusually severe winter. He received a severe reprimand for his behaviour. He was staring straight at her with the most severe expression. Her hair was cut in a very short, severe style. Severe weather conditions can lead to an increase in the demand for electricity. She fixed them with a very severe look. She suffers from severe learning difficulties. She was wearing a severe dark grey jacket. That year we had a particularly severe winter. The bridge has been closed due to severe weather conditions. There is a severe shortage of qualified staff. These women have to endure poor living conditions, low pay and severe discipline.