Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

stern 1

adj. stern·er, stern·est
1. Hard, harsh, or severe in manner or character: a stern disciplinarian. See Synonyms at severe.
2. Showing or expressing displeasure or disapproval; forbidding or harsh: a stern face; a stern voice.
3. Firm or unyielding; uncompromising: stern resistance.
4. Difficult to endure; oppressive: stern necessity.

[Middle English sterne, from Old English styrne; see ster- in Indo-European roots.]

stern′ly adv.
stern′ness n.

stern 2

1. Nautical The rear part of a ship or boat.
2. A rear part or section.

[Middle English sterne, perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse stjōrn, rudder; see stā- in Indo-European roots.]
Mentioned in ?
References in classic literature ?
Among the third and fourth year students there was a certain amount of going to and from the trains in couples; some carrying of heavy books up the hill by the sterner sex for their feminine schoolmates, and occasional bursts of silliness on the part of heedless and precocious girls, among whom was Huldah Meserve.
Diana and Mary relieved me by turning their eyes elsewhere than to my crimsoned visage; but the colder and sterner brother continued to gaze, till the trouble he had excited forced out tears as well as colour.
Defarge, who had been uneasily biting his thumb-nail and looking at her, collected his face into a sterner expression.
Stern was the law which bade its vot'ries leave At human woes with human hearts to grieve; Stern was the law, which at the winning wile Of frank and harmless mirth forbade to smile; But sterner still, when high the iron-rod Of tyrant power she shook, and call'd that power of God.
I went back to the room, and found Van Helsing looking at poor Lucy, and his face was sterner than eve.
And all the while, through these hollow avenues, now nearer, now farther off again, resounded the cry of the Minotaur; and the sound was so fierce, so cruel, so ugly, so like a bull's roar, and withal so like a human voice, and yet like neither of them, that the brave heart of Theseus grew sterner and angrier at every step; for he felt it an insult to the moon and sky, and to our affectionate and simple Mother Earth, that such a monster should have the audacity to exist.
From others of the studious band, Ere long he singled me; But only by more close demand, And sterner urgency.
Deep ravines, in various directions, gave an air of still sterner solemnity to the scene.
Very well, then," he said, in a sterner and more arrogant tone.
For two days the wind was contrary, and the vessel was detained in their neighborhood; at length a favorable breeze sprang up, and in a little while the rich groves, green hills, and snowy peaks of those happy islands one after another sank from sight, or melted into the blue distance, and the Tonquin ploughed her course towards the sterner regions of the Pacific.
Here 's a far sterner story, But like -- oh, very like in its despair -- Of that Egyptian queen, winning so easily A thousand hearts -- losing at length her own.
Perhaps it would have been better for both of us had I been sterner, but I meant it for the best.