des·​ti·​tute | \ˈdes-tə-ˌtüt, -ˌt(y)üt\

Definition of destitute 

1 : lacking something needed or desirable a lake destitute of fish

2 : lacking possessions and resources especially : suffering extreme poverty a destitute old man

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Other Words from destitute

destituteness noun

Did You Know?

You may be surprised to learn that "destitute" is related to words like "statue," "statute," and even "statistics." The Latin word status, meaning "position" or "state," is the source of these and other English words. Some terms of this family are directly related to "status," while others come to English through "statuere," a Latin derivative of "status" that means "to set up." "Destitute" came from "destituere" ("to abandon" or "to deprive"), a joining of "statuere" and the prefix de- ("from, down, away"). "Statuere" also gave us "constitute," "institute," and "restitution," among other similar-sounding words.

Examples of destitute in a Sentence

His business failures left him destitute. many families were left destitute by the horrible fire

Recent Examples on the Web

Back in the early 1980s, most benefits other than Social Security and unemployment insurance were exclusively for the very destitute. Mark Schmitt, Vox, "Why did Bernie Sanders’s Stop BEZOS legislation draw so much resistance?," 18 Sep. 2018 The snarky family-out-of-water schtick of the once rich and snobby but now destitute Rose clan has evolved, as Johnny, Moira, David and Alexis become full-fledged townies of the backwater burg—albeit dressed in designer clothing. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "What to Watch on Netflix in October, According to Our Editors," 1 Oct. 2018 Hilariously goofy art and dorky cartoony shouts are often paired with higher-level, blink-and-you'll-miss-them jokes about how destitute and slave-fueled the Dark Ages really were. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Disenchantment review: Groening’s new Netflix toon is off to a bloody good start," 7 Aug. 2018 If released, my sibling will be destitute, divorced, childless and most likely without friends. New York Times, "What Do I Owe My Sociopathic Sibling?," 2 July 2018 After the Gold Rush, growing numbers of vagrant and destitute children began wandering the city’s streets. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, "Corrupt, inhumane reform school was SF’s first form of juvenile justice," 16 Mar. 2018 Bangladesh, already host to 1m destitute Rohingya refugees chased out of Myanmar, wants nothing to do with the whole process. The Economist, "From dusty villages to Delhi, Indians seek people to persecute," 5 July 2018 The son of a truck driver, Singh grew up on a farm in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, poor but not destitute. Jon Tayler,, "Million Dollar Moves: After His Unlikely Baseball Career Flamed Out, Rinku Singh's Next Stop Is WWE," 3 July 2018 There are few neighborhoods more impoverished, jobless, crime-ridden or destitute than North Lawndale and West and East Garfield Park. Dahleen Glanton,, "Obama Presidential Center is not only for the South Side," 2 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'destitute.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of destitute

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for destitute

Middle English, from Latin destitutus, past participle of destituere to abandon, deprive, from de- + statuere to set up — more at statute

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Statistics for destitute

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for destitute

The first known use of destitute was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for destitute



English Language Learners Definition of destitute

: extremely poor

: without something that is needed or wanted


des·​ti·​tute | \ˈde-stə-ˌtüt, -ˌtyüt\

Kids Definition of destitute

1 : lacking something needed or desirable The room was destitute of comforts.

2 : very poor The charity helps destitute people.

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Comments on destitute

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to enclose within walls

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