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

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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

Those earlier estimates of extreme poverty, suggestive of widespread destitution, prompted Angus Deaton, a Nobel prize-winning economist, to propose redirecting US foreign aid to America’s poorest people. The Economist, "How many Americans live on $2 a day?," 20 June 2019 To be sure, the PRC has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese from the levels of destitution that existed prior to the economic liberalizations under Deng Xiaoping and his successors. Therese Shaheen, National Review, "China’s ‘New Long March’," 5 June 2019 In his speech that April of 1875, the great Frederick Douglass declared this: The world has never seen any people turned loose to such destitution as were the four million slaves of the South. Mitchell S. Jackson, Harper's magazine, "Opportunity Cost," 10 Feb. 2019 Yeah, the goal being, let’s alleviate the worst forms of destitution in low-income countries. Recode Staff, Recode, "Journalist and author Annie Lowrey wants you to understand that universal basic income isn’t crazy," 16 July 2018 The increasing visibility of homelessness and destitution contributes to the uneasy feeling that the problem is closing in on everyone. Paul Thornton,, "Homelessness in L.A.: A national disgrace that must be fixed," 3 Mar. 2018 Mr López Obrador will surely not plunge Mexico into tyranny and destitution the way Chávez did Venezuela. The Economist, "How Andrés Manuel López Obrador will remake Mexico," 23 June 2018 Yet, even amid the destitution, there are glimmers of economic development. The Economist, "The fight against Islamic State is moving to Africa," 14 July 2018 Few are designed to help households manage the private misfortunes—such as illness or the death of a family member—that can tip them into destitution. The Economist, "Ethiopia’s scheme to help the poor is setting an example," 31 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of destitution

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

5 Jul 2019

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

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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

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Comments on destitution

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food or victuals

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