des·​ti·​tu·​tion | \ ˌde-stə-ˈtü-shən How to pronounce destitution (audio) , -ˈtyü- \

Definition of destitution

: 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 While there are few reports of violent retribution against returning families, many describe lives of destitution and ostracism. Mustafa Salim, Washington Post, 5 July 2022 At sixty, Casanova was forced by destitution to accept a modest sinecure as the librarian of a castle in Bohemia, owned by a noble admirer who was rarely in residence. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 20 June 2022 No matter the utter destitution of their subjects, politicians and those close to politicians will always eat, and eat well. John Tamny, Forbes, 13 Apr. 2022 However, the last two years have clearly pushed a lot more people into harsh destitution. David Meyer, Fortune, 20 Apr. 2022 Shelter is an issue impacting many people, from those on the brink of destitution to a whole generation of younger Californians for whom homeownership appears increasingly out of reach. Joshua Emerson Smith, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Apr. 2022 In wealthy countries especially, consumer spending makes up such a huge proportion of the economy that there was no choice but to offer huge rescue packages to prevent a self-perpetuating cycle of bankruptcies and destitution. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 2 Nov. 2021 Growing destitution could undermine the Taliban’s so-far solid hold on power and serve as a recruiting tool for the local branch of Islamic State, their only significant rival. Saeed Shah, WSJ, 16 Oct. 2021 Those on the left like to emphasize push factors — things that drive people to leave their countries, like violence, natural disasters or destitution. New York Times, 19 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'destitution.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of destitution

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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

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Last Updated

9 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Destitution.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for destitution


des·​ti·​tu·​tion | \ ˌde-stə-ˈtü-shən How to pronounce destitution (audio) , -ˈtyü- \

Kids Definition of destitution

: the condition of being very poor

More from Merriam-Webster on destitution

Nglish: Translation of destitution for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of destitution for Arabic Speakers


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