in·​di·​gent ˈin-di-jənt How to pronounce indigent (audio)
: suffering from extreme poverty : impoverished
archaic : deficient
archaic : totally lacking in something specified
indigent noun

Example Sentences

… every day, I fled the house and drove aimlessly over mountain roads that passed by indigent farms and strange, unpainted churches. Mark Singer, New Yorker, 25 Dec. 2000 & 1 Jan. 2001
A land post was offered him in November, 1765, as Governor of Greenwich Hospital, a shelter for disabled and indigent seamen and a place affording many openings for jobbery (the contemporary term for bureaucratic graft). Barbara W. Tuchman, The First Salute, 1988
He went around climbing dark stairs and knocking on doors and taking flash photos of indigent families in their dwellings. E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime, (1974) 1975
Because he was indigent, the court appointed a lawyer to defend him. The clinic provides free care for indigent patients.
Recent Examples on the Web Public defenders are paid by the state and appointed by courts to represent indigent defendants. Will Langhorne, Arkansas Online, 14 May 2023 Thomas has even called for the court to reconsider its ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, which established a constitutional right to a lawyer for indigent criminal defendants. Daniel Kiel, The Conversation, 20 Apr. 2023 In Texas, indigent defenders sometimes opt for jail time to zero out their balances. Glenn Thrush,, 20 Apr. 2023 Shoplifting is a crime of poverty, said Arielle Reid, supervising attorney of the Decarceration Project at the Legal Aid Society, New York’s largest provider of criminal and civil services for indigent clients. Hurubie Meko, New York Times, 15 Apr. 2023 In most counties, attorneys are paid a flat fee, no matter how many indigent clients they are assigned. Caleb Bedillion, ProPublica, 14 Apr. 2023 In some communities, including Tulsa, Oklahoma, there is unusual promise: The group Still She Rises has tailored a legal defense program focusing on the representation of indigent mothers swept up in criminal and civil cases. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, 17 Mar. 2023 Many were poor and indigent and subjected to treatments that were misguided, unscientific and cruel. Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2023 New York City is also unique among American cities for having its own dedicated public cemetery — as well as its insistence on keeping its indigent grave sites off limits to the public. Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, 24 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'indigent.' 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, from Middle French, from Old French, from Latin indigent-, indigens, present participle of indigēre to need, from Old Latin indu + Latin egēre to need; perhaps akin to Old High German echerode poor

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near indigent

Cite this Entry

“Indigent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​di·​gent ˈin-di-jənt How to pronounce indigent (audio)

Legal Definition


in·​di·​gent ˈin-də-jənt How to pronounce indigent (audio)
: suffering from indigence
the indigent defendant was provided with counsel
indigent noun

More from Merriam-Webster on indigent

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!