Word of the day: dearth


Noun (plural: dearths)

  1. A period or condition when food is rare and hence expensive; famine.
  2. (by extension) Scarcity; a lack or short supply.

I literally only just discovered this word a few weeks ago, but since then it seems to have been popping up everywhere in the articles, forums, video clips and whatnot that I’ve viewed.

I discovered it first on a forum, so, with it being in text format, I wasn’t sure what it meant. I looked it up on Wiktionary and found that it was another word for “famine” or “lack of”. To an extent, it describes how dear (i.e. rare or, by extension, valuable) something is, but it doesn’t feel quite as abstract as “dearness“.

Example: There is a morbid dearth of intelligence among the cast and crew of Jersey Shore.

It wasn’t until Gabby Logan spoke it on an episode of Room 101 I was watching, that I discovered (much to my horror) how it was pronounced.

derth“. To rhyme with “earth“.

That’s terrible. It’s such a lovely-looking word – I mean, it combines the word “dear” and the phoneme “th”, one of the softer sounds in the English tongue – and it’s pronounced like the noise you make when you collide face-first with a lamppost.

Example: So, Barry, what did you say to that lady from the bar yester- DERF! Ow!! What dickhead put this lamppost here?!

“dearth” also looks like the word “hearth” – which is a lovely, warming word, probably because it contains (and sounds like) the word “heart” – although if it rhymed with “hearth” you’d get a distinctly Sith-y word, so in many ways that’s a far worse pronunciation.

Example: Darth Vader sat in front of his hearth and contemplated the darth of good aim among his stormtroopers.

I’m going to pronounce it “deerth” just out of protest. That’s just how it looks it should sound.