verb (used without object), starved, starv·ing.

  1. to die or perish from lack of food or nourishment.
  2. to be in the process of perishing or suffering severely from hunger.
  3. to suffer from extreme poverty and need.
  4. to feel a strong need or desire: The child was starving for affection.
  5. Chiefly British Dialect. to perish or suffer extremely from cold.
  6. Obsolete. to die.

verb (used with object), starved, starv·ing.

  1. to cause to starve; kill, weaken, or reduce by lack of food.
  2. to subdue, or force to some condition or action, by hunger: to starve a besieged garrison into a surrender.
  3. to cause to suffer for lack of something needed or craved.
  4. Chiefly British Dialect. to cause to perish, or to suffer extremely, from cold.


  1. having been deprived of food; malnourished


  1. to die or cause to die from lack of food
  2. to deprive (a person or animal) or (of a person, etc) to be deprived of food
  3. (intr) informal to be very hungry
  4. (foll by of or for) to deprive or be deprived (of something necessary), esp so as to cause suffering or malfunctioningthe engine was starved of fuel
  5. (tr foll by into) to bring (to) a specified condition by starvingto starve someone into submission
  6. archaic to be or cause to be extremely cold

Old English steorfan “to die” (past tense stearf, past participle storfen), from Proto-Germanic *sterban “be stiff” (cf. Old Frisian sterva, Dutch sterven, Old High German sterban “to die,” Old Norse stjarfi “tetanus”), from PIE root *ster- “stiff, rigid” (cf. Greek sterphnios “stiff, rigid,” sterphos “hide, skin,” Old Church Slavonic strublu “strong, hard;” see stare).

The conjugation became weak in English by 16c. The sense narrowed to “die of cold” (14c.); meaning “to kill with hunger” is first recorded 1520s (earlier to starve of hunger, early 12c.). Intransitive sense of “to die of hunger” dates from 1570s. German cognate sterben retains the original sense of the word, but the English has come so far from its origins that starve to death (1910) is now common.


  1. To suffer or die from extreme or prolonged lack of food.
  2. To deprive of food so as to cause suffering or death.

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