im·​pov·​er·​ish im-ˈpä-v(ə-)rish How to pronounce impoverish (audio)
impoverished; impoverishing; impoverishes

transitive verb

: to make poor
: to deprive of strength, richness, or fertility by depleting or draining of something essential
impoverisher noun
impoverishment noun
Choose the Right Synonym for impoverish

deplete, drain, exhaust, impoverish, bankrupt mean to deprive of something essential to existence or potency.

deplete implies a reduction in number or quantity so as to endanger the ability to function.

depleting our natural resources

drain implies a gradual withdrawal and ultimate deprivation of what is necessary to an existence.

personal tragedy had drained him of all spirit

exhaust stresses a complete emptying.

her lecture exhausted the subject

impoverish suggests a deprivation of something essential to richness or productiveness.

impoverished soil

bankrupt suggests impoverishment to the point of imminent collapse.

war had bankrupted the nation of resources

Examples of impoverish in a Sentence

The dictator enriched himself but impoverished his people. Poor farming practices impoverished the soil.
Recent Examples on the Web In this densely populated and impoverished Palestinian territory — where families have long been forced to become accustomed to loss and laying the dead to rest is often a communal occasion — the war has overturned lives and robbed the dead of traditional funeral rites. Yasmine Salam, NBC News, 15 Nov. 2023 And yet that lack of accountability may now undermine Sisi’s rule, as angry Egyptians grow increasingly disenchanted with a government that both impoverishes them and fails to address the desperate plight of their neighbors. Lisa Anderson, Foreign Affairs, 25 Oct. 2023 By the time he’s done formulating an answer, he’s laid out in layman’s terms, short sentences, and large print how a stylistic movement impoverished a worldwide architectural ecology, making people sick and poisoning the atmosphere. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 23 Oct. 2023 It’s also had devastating consequences for Gaza’s economy, impoverishing its residents. Bypaolo Confino, Fortune, 19 Oct. 2023 But this approach cannot be allowed to impoverish government, nor should the funds be permitted to bankroll destructive business strategies. Mariana Mazzucato, Foreign Affairs, 2 Oct. 2020 The Horatio Alger myth, a formulaic saga that impoverished youths fortuitously assisting prosperous corpulent strangers needing help will be rewarded with a life of prosperity is a fiction. Time, 17 Aug. 2023 Niger relies heavily on foreign aid and sanctions could further impoverish its more than 25 million people. Sam Mednick, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 Aug. 2023 The folks upstairs, if not the mostly younger standees below, will surely recognize the visual reference to Studio 54, the celebrity nightclub where Marcos, the first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, danced away the last decade of her reign while impoverishing her people. Jesse Green, New York Times, 21 July 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English enpoverisshen, from Anglo-French empoveriss-, stem of empoverir, from en- + povre poor — more at poor

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near impoverish

Cite this Entry

“Impoverish.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


im·​pov·​er·​ish im-ˈpäv-(ə-)rish How to pronounce impoverish (audio)
: to make poor
: to use up the strength or richness of
impoverished soil
impoverishment noun
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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