pen·​u·​ry | \ ˈpen-yə-rē How to pronounce penury (audio) \

Definition of penury

1 : a cramping and oppressive lack of resources (such as money) especially : severe poverty
2 : extreme and often stingy frugality

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Choose the Right Synonym for penury

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

Did You Know?

The exact meaning of "penury" (from Latin penuria, meaning "want") can vary a bit from context to context. It sometimes has had a broad sense of "lack" or "scarcity," as when one character remarks on another's "penury of conversation" in Jane Austen's Emma. It can also mean "frugality," as in Edith Wharton's description of an excessively thrifty hostess in The Age of Innocence: "Her relatives considered that the penury of her table discredited the Mingott name, which had always been associated with good living." The most common sense of "penury," however, is simply "poverty," as in Shakespeare's As You Like It: "Shall I keep your hogs, and eat husks with them? What prodigal portion have I spent that I should come to such penury?"

Examples of penury in a Sentence

lived in a time when single women like herself faced a lifetime of genteel penury

Recent Examples on the Web

The state’s penury weakens a police force already compromised by corruption. The Economist, "Mourning MarielleLessons from a murder in Rio de Janeiro," 22 Mar. 2018 The penury of workers has led several retailers to raise wages and benefits. Phil Wahba, Fortune, "Home Depot and Lowe's Are Hiring 130,000 Temps for the Spring Rush," 14 Feb. 2018 Today government benefits and pension payments spare people the horrible choice between moving or penury. The Economist, "Left in the lurchGlobalisation has marginalised many regions in the rich world," 21 Oct. 2017 One key finding: Most of the progress was not bought by donors, but came organically as hundreds of millions of people scrambled out of the most abject tiers of penury. Donald G. Mcneil Jr., New York Times, "Bill and Melinda Gates Grade the World’s Health," 18 Sep. 2017 No democratic government could ever plunge its people into penury and hope to stay in power. The Economist, "How long can Venezuela avoid default?," 2 Nov. 2017 In a time of digital penury, nobody wants to discourage journalistic enterprise, but a new risk reveals itself: Look at how the Post festoons its report with what can only be called marketing—graphics, video and charts out the wazoo. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Big (and Hurting) Media on Drugs," 20 Oct. 2017 Before now, the concerns of the associate professor of politics at Drexel University trended mainly to spreading the gospel of the Bolivarian Revolution, the disaster that has reduced Venezuela to penury and violence. Theodore Kupfer, National Review, "No, George Ciccariello-Maher Doesn’t Believe in Academic Freedom," 12 Oct. 2017 If Social Security—a venerable entitlement that has spared millions from penury—bears some resemblance to a Ponzi scheme, then perhaps Ponzi principles are not always as diabolical as the name suggests. The Economist, "Kicking the can down an endless road," 31 Aug. 2017

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for penury

Middle English, from Latin penuria, paenuria want; perhaps akin to Latin paene almost

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

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English Language Learners Definition of penury

formal : the state of being very poor : extreme poverty

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More from Merriam-Webster on penury

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for penury

Spanish Central: Translation of penury

Nglish: Translation of penury for Spanish Speakers

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characterized by aphorism

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