noun pen·u·ry \ ˈpen-yə-rē \

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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Examples of penury in a Sentence

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

Recent Examples of penury from the Web

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.

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?"

Origin and Etymology of penury

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

PENURY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of penury for English Language Learners

  • : the state of being very poor : extreme poverty

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excessive admiration or flattery

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