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austere (adj.)

early 14c., from Old French austere "strict, severe, harsh, cruel" (13c., Modern French austère) and directly from Latin austerus "dry, harsh, sour, tart," from Greek austeros "bitter, harsh," especially "making the tongue dry" (originally used of fruits, wines), metaphorically "austere, harsh," from PIE root *saus- "dry" (see sere (adj.)).

From late 14c. as "severe, rigid;" 1590s as "unadorned, simple in style, without luxuries;" 1660s as "grave, sober." Classical literal sense "sour, harsh" (1540s) is rare in English. Related: Austerely; austereness.

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Definitions of austere from WordNet

austere (adj.)
severely simple;
Synonyms: severe / stark / stern
austere (adj.)
of a stern or strict bearing or demeanor; forbidding in aspect;
an austere expression
Synonyms: stern
austere (adj.)
practicing great self-denial; "Be systematically ascetic...do...something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it"- William James;
a desert nomad's austere life
Synonyms: ascetic / ascetical / spartan
From wordnet.princeton.edu