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  1. A period or condition when food is rare and hence expensive; famine.
    • 1608, William Shakespeare, King Lear:
      I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily: as of unnaturalness between the child and the parent; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what.
  2. Scarcity; a lack or short supply.
  3. Dearness; the quality of being rare or costly.

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