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mid-13c., derthe "scarcity" (originally used of famines, when food was costly because scarce; extended to other situations of scarcity from early 14c.), abstract noun formed from root of Old English deore "precious, costly" (see dear) + abstract noun suffix -th (2). Common Germanic formation, though not always with the same sense (cf. Old Saxon diurtha "splendor, glory, love," Middle Dutch dierte, Dutch duurte, Old High German tiurida "glory").
a scarcity of provisions (1 Kings 17). There were frequent dearths in Palestine. In the days of Abram there was a "famine in the land" (Gen. 12:10), so also in the days of Jacob (47:4, 13). We read also of dearths in the time of the judges (Ruth 1:1), and of the kings (2 Sam. 21:1; 1 Kings 18:2; 2 Kings 4:38; 8:1). In New Testament times there was an extensive famine in Palestine (Acts 11:28) in the fourth year of the reign of the emperor Claudius (A.D. 44 and 45).