stern 1 (stûrn)
adj. stern·er, stern·est
1. Hard, harsh, or severe in manner or character: a stern disciplinarian. See Synonyms at severe.
2. Showing or expressing displeasure or disapproval; forbidding or harsh: a stern face; a stern voice.
3. Firm or unyielding; uncompromising: stern resistance.
4. Difficult to endure; oppressive: stern necessity.
[Middle English sterne, from Old English styrne; see ster-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.