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.


1 comment on “ Word of the day: dearth ”

  • “::Kohhh kahhh:: Joid me, ad we shall rue Dearth!”
    – sounds like the Lord Sith has a head cold.

    I think I first encountered this word in a Sci-Fi book called “Mosquito Coast” by Paul Theroux, but I could be wrong. It could have been something in “The Golden Torc” saga by Julian May instead.

    The former book was dear to me since these future folks had flying machines and they visited my birthplace of Missouri which was supposedly now an off-limits radio-active zone. As a 3rd grader (8-9yrs old) I thought they were talking about discovering a bunch of humanoid alien life in the zone — the book disgusted me when a few characters discussed sexing up a few “flesh puppies” then dropping them back in the zone, which sounded like bestiality w/ hairless dogs to me. Later in life I re-read the book and discovered that term was slang, and it was about humans in their ‘au naturel’ habitat thanks to an overly strict government ban. The futuristic adventurers went on vacations to forbidden zones and had sexcapades with the quarantined inhabitants of this new-found paradise…

    I have noticed that certain “obscure” words will surface and become common place from time to time, usually due to a bunch of hipsters trying to sound like they have a descent vocabulary. Ah well, C’est la vie!

    Can you believe they let 8 year olds check out textual porn from the library!?! I’ve been horribly scarred by my naive mental images of folks humping hairless pugs! 😛 (seriously, US censorship is weird — IMHO, if you can check it out at the library it should be viewable on TV)

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