Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin severus
a. strict in judgment, discipline, or government
b. of a strict or stern bearing or manner ; austere
2. rigorous in restraint, punishment, or requirement ; stringent, restrictive
3. strongly critical or condemnatory ; censorious <a severe critic> 4. a. maintaining a scrupulously exacting standard of behavior or self-discipline b. establishing exacting standards of accuracy and integrity in intellectual processes <a severe logician> 5. sober or restrained in decoration or manner ; plain <a severe dress> 6. a. inflicting physical discomfort or hardship ; harsh <severe winters> b. inflicting pain or distress ; grievous <a severe wound> 7. requiring great effort ; arduous <a severe test> 8. of a great degree ; serious <severe depression> • severely adverb • severeness noun • severity noun Synonyms: severe, stern, austere, ascetic mean given to or marked by strict discipline and firm restraint. severe implies standards enforced without indulgence or laxity and may suggest harshness <severe military discipline>. stern stresses inflexibility and inexorability of temper or character <stern arbiters of public morality>. austere stresses absence of warmth, color, or feeling and may apply to rigorous restraint, simplicity, or self-denial <living an austere life in the country>. ascetic implies abstention from pleasure and comfort or self-indulgence as spiritual discipline <the ascetic life of the monks>.
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.