1 [sturn]
adjective, sterner, sternest.
firm, strict, or uncompromising: stern discipline.
hard, harsh, or severe: a stern reprimand.
rigorous or austere; of an unpleasantly serious character: stern times.
grim or forbidding in aspect: a stern face.

before 1000; Middle English; Old English styrne

sternly, adverb
sternness, noun

1, 2. adamant, unrelenting, unsympathetic, cruel, unfeeling. Stern, severe, harsh agree in referring to methods, aspects, manners, or facial expressions. Stern implies uncompromising, inflexible firmness, and sometimes a hard, forbidding, or withdrawn aspect or nature: a stern parent. Severe implies strictness, lack of sympathy, and a tendency to impose a hard discipline on others: a severe judge. Harsh suggests a great severity and roughness, and cruel, unfeeling treatment of others: a harsh critic.

1. lenient. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
stern1 (stɜːn)
1.  showing uncompromising or inflexible resolve; firm, strict, or authoritarian
2.  lacking leniency or clemency; harsh or severe
3.  relentless; unyielding: the stern demands of parenthood
4.  having an austere or forbidding appearance or nature
[Old English styrne; related to Old High German stornēn to alarm, Latin sternāx stubborn, Greek stereos hard]

stern2 (stɜːn)
1.  the rear or after part of a vessel, opposite the bow or stem
2.  the rear part of any object
3.  the tail of certain breeds of dog, such as the foxhound or beagle
4.  relating to or located at the stern
[C13: from Old Norse stjōrn steering; see steer1]

Stern (stɜːn)
Isaac. 1920--2001, US concert violinist, born in (what is now) Ukraine

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. styrne "severe, strict," from P.Gmc. *sternijaz (cf. M.H.G. sterre, Ger. starr "stiff," störrig "obstinate;" Goth. andstaurran "to be stiff;" O.N. stara; O.E. starian "to look or gaze upon"), from PIE base *ster-, *star- "be rigid" (see sterile).

c.1300, "hind part of a ship, steering gear of a ship," probably from O.N. stjorn "a steering," related to styra "to guide" (see steer (v.)). Or the word may come from O.Fris. stiarne "rudder," which is also related to steer (v.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Hester would not set him free, lest he should look her sternly in the face.
Undoubtedly there is a right way of reading, so it be sternly subordinated.
As a result, their patron has been sternly reprimanded and put on probation.
Many commented that this was because they feared that the courts would look more sternly on carrying a gun than on selling drugs.
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