Use this forum to suggest Good Words for Professor Beard.
William Hupy
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Postby William Hupy » Thu Mar 28, 2013 9:05 am

There is a deliberateness to this word. I think. The sense I have is of a person who made the decision to become austere as opposed to having poverty or austere circumstances thrust upon them. Or of someone who is stern in appearance.
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Philip Hudson
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Re: austere

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:41 am

All the references I have looked at give the first sense of the word as you see it. Austerity is more an aura than a condition. I think it is a poor word to describe someone who is poor. It is a good word for someone who is cheap and grasping.
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Perry Lassiter
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Re: austere

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:33 pm

Austere always implies to me the high end of the social scale."Let them eat cake" is the poster child for austerity. I agree it can be a decision, but one can be raised to an austere haughtiness, a sometime synonym, particularly in a family of perceived royalty or old money. I'm not sure why it also can be used of poverty, though in many contexts it seems so.

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Re: austere

Postby Slava » Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:09 pm

As it comes from the Greek for harsh, rough, and bitter, I can see how it could apply to poverty.

Here is a nice write-up from

4. Austere, bleak, spartan, stark all suggest lack of ornament or adornment and of a feeling of comfort or warmth. Austere usually implies a purposeful avoidance of luxury or ease: simple, stripped-down, austere surroundings. Bleak adds a sense of forbidding coldness, hopelessness, depression: a bleak, dreary, windswept plain. Spartan somewhat more forceful than austere, implies stern discipline and rigorous, even harsh, avoidance of all that is not strictly functional: a life of Spartan simplicity. Stark shares with bleak a sense of grimness and desolation: the stark cliff face.
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