Simple Definition of penury
: the state of being very poor : extreme poverty
Full Definition of penury
1 : a cramping and oppressive lack of resources (as money); especially : severe poverty
2 : extreme and often niggardly frugality
Examples of penury in a sentence
<lived in a time when single women like herself faced a lifetime of genteel penury>
Did You Know?
The exact meaning of "penury" (from Latin penuria, meaning "want") can vary a bit from context to context. It sometimes has had a broad sense of "lack" or "scarcity," as when one character remarks on another's "penury of conversation" in Jane Austen's Emma. It can also mean "frugality," as in Edith Wharton's description of an excessively thrifty hostess in The Age of Innocence: "Her relatives considered that the penury of her table discredited the Mingott name, which had always been associated with good living." The most common sense of "penury," however, is simply "poverty," as in Shakespeare's As You Like It: "Shall I keep your hogs, and eat husks with them? What prodigal portion have I spent that I should come to such penury?"
Origin of penury
Middle English, from Latin penuria, paenuria want; perhaps akin to Latin paene almost
First Known Use: 14th century
Synonym Discussion of penury
Seen and Heard
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