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 One such place is the Apostles' House, a homeless shelter in Newark, N.J., for both battered and destitute women. New York Times, "Divorce Rates Are Now Dropping. Here Are Some Reasons Why.," 24 Mar. 2021 In the basement are several unofficial tenants – a group of destitute Londoners, many of them suffering from addiction or mental illness. Steph Cha, USA TODAY, "Money, power, love, art and sex work make up the 'Hot Stew' of Fiona Mozley’s new novel," 20 Apr. 2021 Failure to embrace the neediest, most destitute souls does not befit this country of immigrants. Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, "'Disgraceful': Democrats blast Biden for keeping refugee cap at level set by Trump," 16 Apr. 2021 The fighting, along with devastating floods and cyclones, had turned the new country into one of the most destitute spots on Earth. The Economist, "Mid-life crisis Bangladesh’s growth has been remarkable, but is now at risk," 27 Mar. 2021 Çağatay Ulusoy portrays our trash-picking hero as a de facto father figure to the many street children in his run-down neighborhood of Istanbul, destitute and sick yet rich in magnanimous spirit. Charles Bramesco, Vulture, "Checking In on Netflix’s Original Movies: March 2021 Edition," 23 Mar. 2021 Those men are then revealed as Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), the rich, racist businessmen left destitute at the end of Murphy and Landis’s previous collaboration, Trading Places. Jason Bailey, Vulture, "A Guide to the References and Easter Eggs in Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America," 8 Mar. 2021 From the point of view of the not-quite-destitute, food thieves don’t deserve solidarity. Ann Larson, The New Republic, "My Pandemic Year Behind the Checkout Counter," 5 Mar. 2021 But by the 1990s, Nauru’s mines had run low, leaving its 10,000 residents destitute and the island in ecological ruins. Julia Rosen, The Atlantic, "We Broke Phosphorus," 8 Feb. 2021

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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Time Traveler for destitute

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

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Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Destitute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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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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