des·​ti·​tute | \ ˈde-stə-ˌtüt How to pronounce destitute (audio) , -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 But much of the country’s gold is extracted arduously, in ant-like quantities, by destitute armies of low-tech prospectors. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "Hunting for particles of gold in the jungles of Southeast Asia," 24 June 2020 Whoever that somebody was stopped applying for these jobs as wages fell and word got around that the money that could be earned was fit only for destitute foreigners. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, "How to Fix America’s Broken Guest-Worker System," 24 June 2020 Though the United Kingdom was virtually destitute after the war, his government delivered on nearly all of Labour’s promises. Kevin Baker, Harper's Magazine, "Things to Come," 23 June 2020 There are people who are destitute when the virus hit and are already broke. James Hibberd,, "Trevor Noah reflects on George Floyd's death and the logic of looting in heartfelt message," 1 June 2020 The authors suggest this warrants a rethinking of the popular narrative that the island was destitute when Europeans arrived in 1722. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "New study challenges popular “collapse” hypothesis for Easter Island," 1 June 2020 This finding, drawing on new statistical methods and excavation work, suggests that the Rapanui were not destitute when the first Europeans arrived. Tom Garlinghouse, Scientific American, "Rethinking Easter Island’s Historic ‘Collapse’," 30 May 2020 Federal prosecutors in California say Avenatti stole millions of dollars from clients, including a destitute paraplegic man. Chris Dolmetsch,, "Michael Avenatti Jailed on Eve of Nike Extortion Trial," 10 May 2020 Commonly associated at the time with the crowded and unsanitary conditions of jails, ships and hospitals, typhus attacked destitute populations mercilessly. Timothy Kent Holliday, Smithsonian Magazine, "What an 1836 Typhus Outbreak Taught the Medical World About Epidemics," 21 Apr. 2020

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

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Last Updated

19 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Destitute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for destitute


How to pronounce destitute (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of destitute

: extremely poor
formal + literary : without something that is needed or wanted


des·​ti·​tute | \ ˈde-stə-ˌtüt How to pronounce destitute (audio) , -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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