des·​ti·​tu·​tion ˌde-stə-ˈtü-shən How to pronounce destitution (audio)
: the state of being destitute
especially : such extreme want as threatens life unless relieved
Choose the Right Synonym for destitution

poverty, indigence, penury, want, destitution mean the state of one with insufficient resources.

poverty may cover a range from extreme want of necessities to an absence of material comforts.

the extreme poverty of the slum dwellers

indigence implies seriously straitened circumstances.

the indigence of her years as a graduate student

penury suggests a cramping or oppressive lack of money.

a catastrophic illness that condemned them to years of penury

want and destitution imply extreme poverty that threatens life itself through starvation or exposure.

lived in a perpetual state of want
the widespread destitution in countries beset by famine

Examples of destitution in a Sentence

widespread destitution in Third World countries
Recent Examples on the Web Whatever the bottomless wealth of the Saudi or Emirati royals, there’s the destitution of Yemen and the enduring misery of Syria’s refugees. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 16 Oct. 2023 The Lebanese people have been the subject of dire predictions of malnourished destitution. Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Sep. 2023 In the end, custody battles, investigations into psychiatric misconduct, financial fraud and destitution, and Newton’s death dissolved the group in 1991. Hannah E. Meyers, National Review, 10 Sep. 2023 The slim exhibition catalog offers a very good overview of Ceruti’s early career, the paintings’ unusual subject matter and the period’s social perceptions around destitution — a widespread, intractable condition in 18th-century Brescia. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 31 July 2023 The country did experience a period of democratization, but much of the public equated the new freedoms with destitution. Boris Bondarev, Foreign Affairs, 17 Oct. 2022 With some experts warning that millions of Britons could face destitution from energy bills that could jump 80 percent in October and spike again in January, Ms. Truss is widely expected to authorize a massive state intervention in the energy markets. Stephen Castle, New York Times, 6 Sep. 2022 While migration to the U.S. southern border has always fluctuated, the pandemic and the recession that followed hit Latin America harder than almost anywhere else in the world, plunging millions into hunger, destitution and despair. Julie Turkewitz, New York Times, 11 May 2023 Yet the poet’s name likely conjures a host of grimy associations with Latin Quarter destitution, drugs, disease, and dissonant, avant-garde art. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 8 July 2022 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of destitution was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near destitution

Cite this Entry

“Destitution.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on destitution

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