"to starve" means "to deprive someone of food", but what about an analogous word for water?

Is there a word that means "to deprive someone of water"?

"Dehydrate" is the closest I could think of, but its meaning is more to actively extract water, rather than withhold it. I was hoping for a word that conveyed "water" and only water - ie particular to the deprivation of water (alone)

  • 4
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/77770/…. Also, dehydrate does not necessarily mean to actively extract water. It just means "cause to lose water," which happens during withholding. Such strings sound fine: "The torturers were vicious. They starved him. They dehydrated him. They made him watch daytime TV."
    – DyingIsFun
    Jun 27, 2016 at 22:11
  • 2
    @sil disagree. "they dehydrated him" to me means "they put him in a hot dry room for hours", rather than just "not providing water"
    – Bohemian
    Jun 27, 2016 at 22:17
  • 3
    I'd probably go with, "they denied him water" The daytime TV thing sounds pretty mean as well...
    – Jim
    Jun 28, 2016 at 3:43

4 Answers 4


Merriam-Webster does have a closer definition than you have mentioned for "Dehydrate:

2: to deprive of vitality or savor

"Vitality" here could very easily refer to water, depending on context.

Also, there is a medical definition of "Desiccate" which means according to MW:

to dry up or cause to dry up : deprive or exhaust of moisture;

or the less active, non-medical definition:

1: to dry up

  • 1
    Neither of these are a good analogy for "starve", in my opinion: they're too "physical", rather than biological: something that happens in the freeze-drying process, for example, rather than something that is done to a person to make them uncomfortable (or ultimately kill them). This does feel like a "missing word", though. Jul 18, 2016 at 15:00

Seems like you can actually be "starved" of things other than food...

  1. To suffer or die from extreme or prolonged lack of food.
  2. Informal To be hungry.
  3. To suffer from deprivation: a puppy starving for attention.

"Starved for attention" as in the third definition above, or "starved of oxygen" for example.

So, as in this article, they use "starved of water" to mean being deprived of water:

One in eight dying patients are starved of food and water in their final days of NHS care.

And this book uses "water-starved" as part of its title... surely a book about being starved of water would have found an official word if there were one:

Let There Be Water: Israel's Solution for a Water-Starved World

So, for the sake of your request, it seems like "water-starved" is a good choice.

  • But this is hardly a common usage. Jun 27, 2016 at 22:30
  • 6
    If there were a common usage, this question would likely not exist... doesn't make the answer wrong or bad. It's also inherently instantly understandable, which would not be the case with a word that is exactly what the OP wants but used by no one.
    – Catija
    Jun 27, 2016 at 22:31
  • +1 Starved is used metaphorically for deprivation. Both "starved of oxygen", but also "starved of attention" are both absolutely common place expressions.
    – J D
    13 hours ago

Another word is "parch" which Google defines as "make or become dry through intense heat"

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When I was born, my mother's mom or her sister had not heard from her. They came to the house, and found me in a crib, and my mother just sitting in a chair. Lucky for me they recognized something was wrong. They called Dr. Vidt. He came to the house, and had to rehydrate me intravenously. My Nan told me I did not cry tears for two yrs. Insofar as I am concerned, she had 'starved me of water.' So you see, it can be done.

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