pen·​ni·​less | \ ˈpe-ni-ləs How to pronounce penniless (audio) \

Definition of penniless

: destitute of money

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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

His lifelong project, in many ways, is an attempt to reconcile those two people: the penniless, bumbling foreigner who speaks atrocious English, and the cocksure Sarajevan who was once intelligent and cool and desirable—who was somebody. Ryu Spaeth, The New Republic, "Aleksandar Hemon’s Lost Eden," 6 June 2019 Deo, as he is known, found a way out of the country and to New York City, arriving nearly penniless and knowing no one nor a word of English. Ben Cramer, Town & Country, "The Man Who Went From Being Homeless to Saving a Nation," 28 Apr. 2017 The country is in shambles — saddled with a rapidly atrophying economy and a penniless government. Luke.winkie, Vox, "Inside Venezuela’s YouTube prank economy," 12 Dec. 2018 But Tesla died virtually penniless in a New York hotel room in 1943, after failing to capitalize on his major innovations while others won fortunes and Nobel Prizes by building on his work. John F. Wasik, WSJ, "Lessons From Tesla (the Man, Not the Car)," 14 Sep. 2018 The lavish villa was built in 1914 for Secondo Guasti, a penniless Italian immigrant who became California’s largest winemaker despite widespread skepticism at the time that such an industry could ever thrive in the state. Reif Larsen, The Seattle Times, "LA Reverential: A City’s Chill Spots," 1 Aug. 2018 Joplin died penniless, and he was buried with a man and a teenage girl in a plot that went unmarked until 1974. Alex Vadukul, New York Times, "The Forgotten Entertainer Rag," 24 May 2018 Caceres was let off the plane, penniless, in San Pedro Sula — the city where his ex-wife was murdered, the place that had sparked the journey. Jim Wyss And Brenda Medina, miamiherald, "Honduran man separated from son at U.S. border 2 months ago fears he 'lost everything'," 5 July 2018 Ebrahim Arab, a civil engineering contractor, withdrew all his deposits from credit unions — many of which have defaulted and left investors penniless — and put $30,000 in a safe. Ramin Mostaghim,, "The return of U.S. sanctions is expected to sow misery in Iran. But for those with money, there's a haven: dollars," 29 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'penniless.' 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 penniless

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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Pennine Alps

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Last Updated

11 Jun 2019

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

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More Definitions for penniless



English Language Learners Definition of penniless

: having no money : very poor


pen·​ni·​less | \ ˈpe-ni-ləs How to pronounce penniless (audio) \

Kids Definition of penniless

: very poor : having no money

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More from Merriam-Webster on penniless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for penniless

Spanish Central: Translation of penniless

Nglish: Translation of penniless for Spanish Speakers

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What made you want to look up penniless? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a tendency to relapse

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