in·​di·​gence | \ ˈin-di-jən(t)s How to pronounce indigence (audio) \

Definition of indigence

: a level of poverty in which real hardship and deprivation are suffered and comforts of life are wholly lacking

Choose the Right Synonym for indigence

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

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Is your vocabulary impoverished by a lack of synonyms for indigence? We can help. Poverty, penury, want, and destitution all describe the state of someone who is lacking in key resources. Poverty covers the range from severe lack of basic necessities to an absence of material comforts ("the refugees lived in extreme poverty"). Penury suggests a cramping or oppressive lack of money ("illness condemned him to years of penury"). Want and destitution imply extreme, even life-threatening, poverty ("lived in a perpetual state of want"; "the widespread destitution in countries beset by famine"). Indigence, which descends from a Latin verb meaning "to need," implies seriously straitened circumstances and usually connotes the endurance of many hardships and the lack of comforts.

Examples of indigence in a Sentence

there are various state and federal programs to help relieve indigence
Recent Examples on the Web Black and Hispanic Americans escaped indigence in record numbers. Washington Post, 18 Mar. 2022 His children, three former child prodigies, are to blame for his financial indigence. CNN, 13 Dec. 2021 William Booth’s famous poverty maps, which the social reformer used to catalogue affluence and indigence in late Victorian London, don’t extend this far south. Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2021 Under Harris County’s rigid and misguided risk-assessment system, indicators of indigence received the same point values as a history of criminal violations or prior failures to appear in court. Gilbert Garcia,, 12 Feb. 2020 Amazing that a handful of ’em haven’t been assessed five-minute majors for loitering or indigence., 21 Oct. 2019 If the prototypical American was white and middle class, and my parents’ Chinese accents and indigence marked them as irredeemably fresh off the boat, what chance was there for someone like me to achieve Americanness? Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, 16 Sep. 2019 Northwell prefers not to call the Food as Health Center a pantry, concerned that the term might connote indigence. Lucette Lagnado, WSJ, 22 Oct. 2018 The indigence hearing to decide whether taxpayers should stop paying for his defense team will be held in the county. Faith Karimi, CNN, 11 Apr. 2018 See More

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

First Known Use of indigence

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

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Last Updated

30 Mar 2022

Cite this Entry

“Indigence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for indigence


in·​di·​gence | \ ˈin-də-jəns How to pronounce indigence (audio) \

Legal Definition of indigence

: impoverished hardship and deprivation

More from Merriam-Webster on indigence

Nglish: Translation of indigence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of indigence for Arabic Speakers


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