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

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 While millions of Ukrainians lived in near penury, part of its political and business elite amassed shadowy fortunes exploiting resources, enterprises and infrastructure formerly owned by the state. New York Times, 18 Mar. 2022 The worst part of a bear market, besides the fears of penury, is the uncertainty. Larry Edelman,, 24 May 2022 Shchukin’s lavish patronage of Matisse, which began in 1906, relieved the artist and his family from years of penury. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 9 May 2022 The North is a pariah nation of people hovering often on the knife-edge of starvation or penury. David A. Andelman, CNN, 22 Feb. 2022 But within months, the Bitcoin bonanza took the nation from plenty to penury. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 6 Jan. 2022 English roads teemed with men turned vagrant by penury; Spain was on the cusp of war. Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2021 Burma, once lauded for its fine schools and polyglot cosmopolitanism, sank into penury. New York Times, 24 Dec. 2021 Like all diseases, COVID-19 feeds on penury, and in the Bronx—which has been hit twice as hard as Manhattan—nearly one in three people lives below the poverty line. Rozina Ali, Harper’s Magazine , 7 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Penury.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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Nglish: Translation of penury for Spanish Speakers


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