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

With the end of government support for land going to freedpeople, a sharecropping system arose in its place, leaving them economically destitute. Arica L. Coleman, Time, "The House Hearing on Slavery Reparations Is Part of a Long History. Here's What to Know on the Idea's Tireless Early Advocates," 18 June 2019 Each department laid out the day’s strategies and provided updates on projects big and small, such as efforts to assist a destitute family living in a park. Steve Lopez,, "I watched Eric Garcetti rise to the challenge of homelessness and fall short. But it’s not all his fault," 15 June 2019 By the 1780s, unemployment, food shortages, and high taxes had left the commoners desperate and destitute, while the wealthy nobility remained untouched. Ryan Prior And Erin Davis, CNN, "Bastille Day inspired centuries of civil disobedience in France. Here's why," 13 July 2019 An early-twentieth-century soup kitchen tally board vividly conjures the struggles of destitute Eastern European immigrants in London’s East End. Sara Lipton, The New York Review of Books, "A Terribly Durable Myth," 17 June 2019 Venezuela’s economy has collapsed under Mr. Maduro, leading to an exodus of destitute and hungry people. Samuel Rubenfeld, WSJ, "U.S. Adds Maduro’s Wife to Sanctions List," 25 Sep. 2018 The Venezuelan people are already destitute, and anything that accelerates Mr. Maduro’s demise is good for them. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, "Power and Money in Venezuela," 10 Feb. 2019 Today ballet-mad young girls decorate their bedrooms with smaller versions of Marie, totally unaware of their little dancer’s brutal, destitute life. Moira Hodgson, WSJ, "‘Little Dancer Aged Fourteen’ Review: Rat-Girl of the Paris Opera," 16 Nov. 2018 To achieve such a vision, painters such as George Harvey had to subtract the gambling sailors and destitute beggars from city’s leading outdoor space. Justin T. Clark,, "Building Boston to shape morality," 14 Apr. 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

15 Aug 2019

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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
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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