des·​ti·​tute ˈde-stə-ˌtüt How to pronounce destitute (audio)
: lacking something needed or desirable
a lake destitute of fish
: lacking possessions and resources
especially : suffering extreme poverty
a destitute old man
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 New York City, Chicago, Denver and other cities have struggled to house destitute Venezuelan migrants, most of whom don't have family members or friends in the U.S. who can take them in. Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, 14 Nov. 2023 Forging a life in America, the Wus never lost the desire to help their destitute countrymen. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, 18 Oct. 2023 Then came a wave of noisy street demonstrations featuring destitute pensioners paid to chant for the removal of their country’s pro-Western president. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, 24 Sep. 2023 The cities' struggles to house tens of thousands of destitute migrants, and their growing calls for federal action, have also placed mounting pressure on the Biden administration to intervene. Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, 22 Aug. 2023 There’s an undeniable thrill in tracking his rise from a destitute kid with no prospects to a gridiron prodigy beset by college recruiters. Steve Almond, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2023 But by her death, alone and nearly destitute, at the age of 76 in 2003, she had been eclipsed by newer stars as well as by later groundbreakers like Arthur Ashe. Clea Simon,, 10 Aug. 2023 Throughout the negotiations, producers weren’t so callous as to publicly wish that the screenwriters be left destitute and homeless; no actor responded with 12-letter epithets. Thomas Doherty, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 July 2023 Almost destitute, with no living relatives and recovering from an illness, her doctors had given her no more than two years to live. Janet B. Carson, Arkansas Online, 11 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'destitute.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near destitute

Cite this Entry

“Destitute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


des·​ti·​tute ˈdes-tə-ˌt(y)üt How to pronounce destitute (audio)
: lacking something needed or desirable
destitute of the necessities of life
: extremely poor : suffering great want

More from Merriam-Webster on destitute

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