Lean (adj.)

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Senior Member
English - US
While reading the dictionary entry for the adjective "lean", I encountered a meaning that I wasn't familiar with:
offering little reward, substance, or nourishment; meagre:

the lean winter months
keep a small reserve to tide you over the lean years
In your opinion, is this meaning well known? Have you heard it used like this before?
  • tepatria

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I've heard of this and I have used it. In my family you might hear talk of the lean years of our childhood. I wouldn't say we commonly use it, but its not that rare.


    Senior Member
    I think it is more commonly applied to financial problems these days: "We've got a lean couple of weeks coming up" = money is going to be tight, we will only be able to afford basic essentials; "He's having a lean time of it" = He's struggling to make enough money to survive.
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