pen·​ni·​less ˈpe-ni-ləs How to pronounce penniless (audio)
: destitute of money

Examples of penniless in a Sentence

She was unemployed and penniless. went from being a penniless girl to owner of her own restaurant
Recent Examples on the Web Thousands have been returned to Mexican custody after failure to express credible fear, and shipped hundreds of miles away from the border, where most are stuck penniless in unfamiliar Mexican cities, left to contemplate their next moves. Lillian Perlmutter, The New Republic, 13 Sep. 2023 For those who have made it to the U.S., some are exhausted and penniless. CBS News, 14 May 2023 The big chunks of the easy-to-find gold that had been lolling around in rivers for millenniums were gone after the first years of the Gold Rush, and Marshall himself died penniless. Thomas Fuller Jim Wilson, New York Times, 22 Apr. 2023 Her parents’ boarding house reflects the poverty of being left penniless due to the country’s occupation while retaining a warm, inviting atmosphere. Variety Staff, Variety, 17 Feb. 2023 An apparently penniless street boy in a torn jacket carries a big woven-wicker basket on his back, casting a side-glance in hopes of scoring some work as a porter. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 31 July 2023 The film tells the story of Madeleine, a pretty, young and penniless actress, who is accused of murdering a famous producer. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 13 Jan. 2023 Mizner died just six years later, in 1933, penniless. Klara Glowczewska, Town & Country, 25 July 2023 The exhibit features 40 costumes from the 2012 production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, a a satirical five-act play about a penniless underachiever with a bad attitude who leaves his home in Norway to travel the world after kidnapping a bride. Adrienne Gaffney, ELLE, 10 July 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of penniless was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near penniless

Cite this Entry

“Penniless.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pen·​ni·​less ˈpen-i-ləs How to pronounce penniless (audio)
: having no money : very poor

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