I don't know if the title is completely appropriate/applicable, but I guess it'll have to do until there's an edit.

So a if one dies of starvation, one dies from "suffering or death caused by hunger (New Oxford American Dictionary)". Is there a given term for "suffering or death caused by lack of water/thirst"? When one says "He starved to death", the meaning is "He died from hunger", but there's no term (at least to the best of my knowledge) for something like "He (word for died from thirst) to death)".

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    Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find / The Hanged Man. Fear death by water. – JFW Aug 10 '12 at 9:04

11 Answers 11


Dehydration might be the word you're looking for:

He died from dehydration.

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    I feel like "dehydration" doesn't carry the force or drama, I suppose, of "starvation". For example, my coaches for sports say "Remember to drink water so you don't get dehydrated!", and that's not intimidating in the way that "starvation" is. However, I feel like "dehydration" can be used in the way I desire, though I'm hoping for a more fitting word, so I'll +1 you and if no better answer comes through, mark you as the answer. – pasawaya Aug 10 '12 at 2:21
  • @qegal The only related word I can think of would be desiccation, but I've never heard it used in the context of death. – user11550 Aug 10 '12 at 2:24
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    @qegal: Umm, it may not sound all scary, but the reason coaches say that is because it's not unknown for athletes to drop dead of dehydration. Here's a link to a recent example. – jmoreno Aug 10 '12 at 7:13
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    Rect after quick check. Yes, it's by far the most common way to die from dehydration, being one of the most common ways to die, at 2.6million deaths in 2009. – Jon Hanna Aug 10 '12 at 11:06
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    But the verb forms of dehydration and even thirst aren't as useful as that of starvation. He starved to death is perfect English. He dehydrated/thirsted to death sounds odd. – kojiro Aug 10 '12 at 12:33

there's no term (at least to the best of my knowledge) for something like "He (word for died from thirst) to death"

Sure there is: "Died of thirst." The phrase gets more than half a million hits on Google, and over 100,000 in Google books.

There's also "died from thirst", but of seems to be the more common preposition.

If you really want a construction parallel to starved to death, though, you can simply say thirsted to death.


from dehydration. or if you want a longer form: of thirst.

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    How is of thirst (eight letters, one space) longer than from dehydration (fifteen letters, one space)? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 29 '15 at 1:28
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Maybe not longer but more verbose. – pasawaya Feb 1 '16 at 1:40
  • @pasawaya How is it more verbose? It's the same number of words, they're just shorter words… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 1 '16 at 1:44
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - My mistake, forgot the "from." – pasawaya Feb 1 '16 at 4:14

To strictly fit the format, you could use thirst in its verb form. Hence

He thirsted to death.

However, its use as a verb is relatively rare (indeed, it may well be one of those interesting cases where metaphorical use out-numbers literal, and The athlete thirsted for Olympic gold seems more natural than I thirsted for a decent craft-brewed beer, though both events described are as likely to occur).

For that reason it's technically correct, but sounds unnatural, and I wouldn't recommend it. I'd go for keeping He died of thirst.

Hypernatraemia caused by dehydration as given in other answers, are the most likely direct causes of what actually dealt the body its final irrecoverable blow, but there's no verb form of hypernatraemia, and He dehydrated to death has the same problems as thirst as a verb, and is imprecise: diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of infant deaths, and a common cause of older deaths, and then it is also death by dehydration, but not of thirst. Indeed, a patient of dehydration may find it hard to drink as much as their carers are encouraging them to, as while they are dying from dehydration, they are not thirsty.


The proper medical term for dehydration is hypernatraemia; however there is not a special term for the terminal state of this condition... one would say 'death from hypernatraemia'

Hypernatremia is an electrolyte disturbance that is defined by an elevated sodium level in the blood. Hypernatremia is generally not caused by an excess of sodium, but rather by a relative deficit of free water in the body. For this reason, hypernatremia is often synonymous with the less precise term, dehydration.

  • I think your edit makes clear what I already suspected - hypernatraemia derives from Latin natrium, sodium. So it doesn't actually mean "dehydration" anyway - that's just one of the most likely causes of the condition. – FumbleFingers Aug 10 '12 at 2:43
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    Exactly - OP asked for a word meaning "death caused by lack of water", not "death caused by excess concentration of sodium". Like if he'd asked for "death caused by lack of air", the answer would be suffocation, not asphyxiation (which could include breathing pure nitrogen, or [some] carbon monoxide, etc.). – FumbleFingers Aug 10 '12 at 2:56
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    Your comment makes sense as long as you can demonstrate that it's possible to die from dehydration without suffering from terminal Hypernatremia. Can you provide the evidence? – Mike Pennington Aug 10 '12 at 3:29
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    No, his comment makes sense because it's easily demonstrable that you can die from hypernatremia without dehydration though hypervolemic hypernatremia is rarer. Ironically, one way it happens when in a desperate attempt to avoid terminal dehydration, people drink lots of sea-water. They are then hydrated, but hypernatremic, which increases the feeling of thirst leading them to drink more (they've already got to the point of desperation where the salt taste isn't putting them off) go into a coma and die from it, or from drowning (considering the scenarios where this comes up). – Jon Hanna Aug 10 '12 at 10:39
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    Plus one. This is why you die from dehydration. – Mazura Aug 20 '15 at 18:07

Collins defines desiccation as:

the process or state of becoming completely dried up

However, it is probably used more often to refer to foods or landscape than to people. It is sometimes used to describe drying after death of an animal or person.

But the phrase death by desiccation has a nice ring to it.

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    Except in "poetic" usages, the process of dessication wouldn't really have gotten started until long after a person had died of dehydration. – FumbleFingers Aug 10 '12 at 2:59
  • @FumbleFingers - I don't necessarily disagree. – bib Aug 10 '12 at 3:03
  • I like this word but you're dead way before you desiccate. – Mazura Aug 20 '15 at 18:06

If you're looking specifically for the format "He (word for died from thirst) to death)", then perhaps consider shriveled, though it isn't commonly applied in the context of humans.

Note that this actually means that he dried up from lack of moisture, which is basically the end result of staying thirsty for a long time. Normally, people would die way before that stage.


We need to invent a verb for this that is used in the same way starve would be used.
Thirsted to death is not bad but the parallel for food would be hungered to death, not starved to death, so it is not ideal.

Starve is a verb used to indicate not just hunger but it also indicates that some damage is taking place to the body, the body wastes away. Someone suggested "death by desiccation". Like starvation, it also is a slow process so how about

He desiccated to death.

Although I think this is closer, it's still not ideal, as desiccation focuses on the end state, while starvation focuses on the suffering process. A word that focuses on the process would be dehydrate. So the following phrase might work.

He dehydrated to death

What do you think? Sounds too strange?

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    Welcome to EL&U. As you may not be aware, this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, and your submission repeats other answers but does not really answer the question. I encourage you to take the site tour and visit the help center for guidance. – choster Jun 1 '14 at 2:38

A single word or short term for "suffering or death caused by lack of water/thirst"? How about "dry up to death?"

Dry up: make or become completely dry.

For example,

Fidgety [ a frog] had not escaped. Fidgety had not become a cat snack. He'd just crawled up into the [ceramic] turtle to hide. And while we searched and despaired and let all the water in his aquarium pond habitat evaporate, he had slowly starved and dried up to death. source

Four slugs dried up to death on my driveway. We are having a funeral for them at 12 noon on Tuesday. It's a slug awareness day. Come dressed as a slug and bring your slime. source

dry: adj. 9) desiring drink; thirsty. 14) dehydrated. Random House Kerneman Webster's Dictionary, Ed. 2010.


dehydrocution, anhydrocution, dessicution, exsiccution

Terminal dehydration


In my mind I have always assumed if one perished, he died from lack of water. I realize this is not a complete definition, but long ago decided it worked, and it does. For me.

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    It might work for you, but is not a common definition of perish, so is not going to work for anyone else. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 6 '14 at 14:11

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