Noun > Dearth

Noun – Dearth

The Old English deore, meaning “costly or precious,” eventually gave us the word “dear.”

And the related Old English word derthe, meaning “a scarcity of food,” gave us the English “dearth.”

Dearth” originally meant “dearness or costliness.” Then, it grew to mean “a shortage of food.”

And today, a dearth is a shortage or a scarcity of anything valuable.

(rhymes with “earth” and “birth”)

Part of speech:
Noun, usually the the countable kind: “a dearth of information,” “the city’s dearth of neuropsychologists.”

(In older texts, you’ll see “dearth” used as an uncountable noun meaning “famine” or “almost-famine:” “they endured the years of dearth,” “they suffered in time of dearth.”)

Other forms:
Just the plural, which we hardly ever need: “dearths.”

How to use it:
Pick this formal but common word to emphasize how dear or valuable something is when you don’t have enough of it.

Generally we talk about a dearth of something: a dearth of affordable apartments, a dearth of good scientific research, a dearth of reliable witnesses to that event, a dearth of good radio stations in your city, the dearth of significant local news stories that opens the airwaves to constant updates about newborn baby animals in zoos.

Because the word “dearth” is usually so serious, you can use it for a funny kind of mock-formality: “a pop song with a refreshing dearth of auto-tune;” “This Christmas movie suffers from a dearth of gorgeous single moms in fluffy sweaters.”

“Differences in culture, language and mission compounded a dearth of trust on both sides.”
— Alex W. Palmer, New York Times, 16 October 2019

“Highlighting an unmistakable dearth of epic, amazing [guitar] solos in recent years, Americans of all ages have reportedly called on the nation’s musicians to play technically difficult licks on their electric guitars, preferably at lightning-fast speeds, stressing the importance that the solos be both ‘loud as hell’ and ‘totally insane.'”
— The Onion, 17 March 2014