Etymology
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severe (adj.)

1540s, "rigorous in condemnation or punishment," from French severe (12c., Modern French sévère) or directly from Latin severus "serious, grave, strict, austere," which is of uncertain origin, but de Vaan supports the theory (also in Watkins) that it probably is a suffixed form PIE root *segh- "to have, hold," on the notion of "steadfastness, toughness."

It is attested by 1560s of looks and demeanor, of law or punishment ("unsparing"), also "extremely strict in matters of conduct or self-discipline." It is attested by 1660s with reference to styles or tastes, "chaste, restrained, shunning florid ornament." On the notion of "sharp, distressing, violent" it is attested by 1670s in reference to weather or winter, by 1725 of illness or disease, by 1742 of pain and suffering.

updated on July 07, 2022

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Definitions of severe from WordNet

severe (adj.)
intensely or extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality;
a severe case of flu
severe pain
Synonyms: terrible / wicked
severe (adj.)
very strong or vigorous;
a severe blow
Synonyms: hard / knockout
severe (adj.)
severely simple;
Synonyms: austere / stark / stern
severe (adj.)
unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment; "a parent severe to the pitch of hostility"- H.G.Wells;
a hefty six-footer with a rather severe mien
Synonyms: spartan
severe (adj.)
causing fear or anxiety by threatening great harm;
a severe case of pneumonia
Synonyms: dangerous / grave / grievous / serious / life-threatening
severe (adj.)
very bad in degree or extent;
a severe worldwide depression
the house suffered severe damage
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.