from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Hard, harsh, or severe in manner or character: a stern disciplinarian. See Synonyms at severe.
  • adj. Grim, gloomy, or forbidding in appearance or outlook.
  • adj. Firm or unyielding; uncompromising.
  • adj. Inexorable; relentless: stern necessity.
  • n. Nautical The rear part of a ship or boat.
  • n. A rear part or section.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Having a hardness and severity of nature or manner.
  • adj. Grim and forbidding in appearance.
  • n. The rear part or after end of a ship or vessel.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Having a certain hardness or severity of nature, manner, or aspect; hard; severe; rigid; rigorous; austere; fixed; unchanging; unrelenting; hence, serious; resolute; harsh
  • adj. Being in the stern, or being astern.
  • n. The black tern.
  • n. The helm or tiller of a vessel or boat; also, the rudder.
  • n. The after or rear end of a ship or other vessel, or of a boat; the part opposite to the stem, or prow.
  • n. Fig.: The post of management or direction.
  • n. The hinder part of anything.
  • n. The tail of an animal; -- now used only of the tail of a dog.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Severe in disposition or conduct; austere; harsh; rigorous; hard.
  • Characterized by severity or rigor; especially, resulting from or expressive of harshness: as, a stern reply; a stern glance; a stern rebuke.
  • Grim or forbidding in aspect; gloomy; repelling.
  • Rough; violent; tumultuous; fierce.
  • Rigid; stringent; strict.
  • Stout; strong; heavy.
  • Firm; unyielding; inflexible; hard.
  • Synonyms Severe. Harsh, Strict, etc. See austere.
  • 1 and
  • Unrelenting, uncompromising, inflexible.
  • To steer; guide.
  • To back (a boat) with the oars; back water; row backward.
  • To draw back; back water: said of a boat or its crew.
  • n. The rudder or helm of a vessel.
  • n. Hence, figuratively, any instrument of management or direction; a guiding agent or agency; also, a post of direction or control.
  • n. The hinder part of a ship or boat, where the rudder is placed; the part furthest removed from the stem or prow. See also cut under poop.
  • n. The hinder parts, backside, buttocks, or rump; the tail of an animal.
  • n. Same as starn.
  • n. A tern.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. severely simple
  • n. the rear part of a ship
  • n. the fleshy part of the human body that you sit on
  • adj. severe and unremitting in making demands
  • n. United States concert violinist (born in Russia in 1920)
  • adj. of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor; forbidding in aspect
  • adj. not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English sterne, from Old English styrne; see ster-1 in Indo-European roots.
Middle English sterne, perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse stjōrn, rudder; see stā- in Indo-European roots.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English stern, sterne, sturne, from Old English styrne ("stern, grave, strict, austere, hard, severe, cruel"), from Proto-Germanic *sturnijaz (“angry, astonished, shocked”), from Proto-Indo-European *ster-, *ter- (“rigid, stiff”). Cognate with Scots stern ("bold, courageous, fierce, resolute"), Old High German stornēn ("to be astonished"), Dutch stuurs ("glum, austere"), Swedish stursk ("insolent").


  • “There are few things I would deny you, Daughter, without good reason,” Balm answered, her expression stern.

    Shadow Chase

  • President Obama's promising what he calls a stern response if North Korea launches a missile, as it now threatens.

    CNN Transcript Apr 2, 2009

  • Before she could get any more information from him, Marco walked over to them, his expression stern.

    That’s Amore

  • QUESTION: The Associated Press reports that in reaction to what they termed your stern rebuke of Jerry Thacker, a group called Human Rights Campaign said that while this was a positive development, the Bush administration's, quote, "Obsessive focus on abstinence as the solitary mechanism to prevent the transmission of HIV is not based on sound science."

    CNN Transcript Jan 27, 2003

  • Storm of mutinous anger gathers round the Captain stern and true,

    The Voyage of Magellan

  • Lavishness lives on among the audience members, whose gaudy fashion sense the evening I attended was in stern defiance of Mr. Zapatero's plan de austeridad.

    In Madrid, the Party Goes On, Austero Style

  • She liked him for a certain stern soberness that was his, and for his saving grace of humor.


  • CBS trying to sue stern is sour grapes and distracting from their FM disaster.

    David Lee Roth: Amtrak FM « BuzzMachine

  • I think howard stern is a pervert and i never give him the time of day.

    The outcry over indecency is a big lie « BuzzMachine

  • She ignored him, her expression stern and disapproving.

    Voice of the Gods


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  • German for 'star'.

    January 9, 2008