"Famished" <vs> "Starving"

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panzerfaust0

Senior Member
mandarin
Hello. I know that both "famished" and "starving" mean one is very hungry. I am just wondering which one is "hungrier". I am guessing "famished" however I would like input from others.

Context: An All You Can Eat sushi bar is a good option if one is famished.

Context 2: I am starving! Is dinner ready yet?

Thanks.
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In my experience,
    - they are used to say exactly the same thing (very hungry)
    - they are not precise. Neither is "hungrier" than the other
    - "starving" is used far more often than "famished".

    Note that "starving" also has a literal meaning: nearly dead from lack of food. This meaning is common (we talk about "starving children" in a poor slum) so you need to avoid it. Usually that is not a problem. The sentence "The kids are starving - let's eat out." clearly means "hungry".
     
    Last edited:

    panzerfaust0

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    I don't believe I've ever heard anyone use the word.
    It is not in common usage these days. It sounds like the kind of word Shakespeare might use. You do still hear older people say it in the UK, but usually in a consciously old-fashioned way.
    I think that perhaps "famished" is mainly used in writing whereas "(one is) starving" is used colloquially.

    I haven't heard 'famished' in a while, but I've always considered it to be much hungrier than 'starving'.
    I know, right?
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    I haven't heard 'famished' in a while, but I've always considered it to be much hungrier than 'starving'.
    It depends. I think the literal meaning of 'starving' is stronger than 'famished'. Famished just means 'very very hungry' whereas starving literally means dying of hunger. But in informal usage, it just means 'very hungry'.
     
    It depends. I think the literal meaning of 'starving' is stronger than 'famished'. Famished just means 'very very hungry' whereas starving literally means dying of hunger. But in informal usage, it just means 'very hungry'.
    I agree.

    Also, "famished" I presume is related to "famine" and during famines -- which can last for months or longer -- people are just beginning a long. slow process of scrambling for food, they are not necessarily near the point of dying from lack of it, but starvation does mean they are dying from it, near the end, so I too equate it with being stronger, but in the non-literal jocularly emphatic way most people use it, that nuance doesn't count for much.

    (People will even say things like "I haven't had a thing since breakfast, I can't wait for lunch. I'm dying of hunger!")
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    It depends. I think the literal meaning of 'starving' is stronger than 'famished'. Famished just means 'very very hungry' whereas starving literally means dying of hunger. But in informal usage, it just means 'very hungry'.
    They seem to be much of a muchness according to the Free Dictionary.

    Starve
    (stärv)
    v. starved, starv·ing, starves
    v.intr.
    1. To suffer or die from extreme or prolonged lack of food.


    Famish
    (făm′ĭsh)
    v. fam·ished, fam·ish·ing, fam·ish·es
    v.tr.
    1. To cause to endure severe hunger.
    2. To cause to starve to death.


    Famished
    (ˈfæmɪʃt) adj
    1. informal very hungry or weak


    Starving
    (ˈstɑːvɪŋ)
    adj
    informal very hungry; ravenous
     
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