: lacking material possessions
: of, relating to, or characterized by poverty
: less than adequate : meager
: small in worth
: exciting pity
you poor thing
: inferior in quality or value
: mean, petty
: barren, unproductive
used of land
: lacking a normal or adequate supply of something specified
often used in combination
oil-poor countries
ˈpu̇r-ish How to pronounce poor (audio)
poorness noun

Example Sentences

We were too poor to buy new clothes. The organization helps poor families. She has a poor vocabulary. It was a poor attempt at a joke. He is in poor condition. She couldn't read the sign because her vision was too poor. See More
Recent Examples on the Web The games would prove a turning point for public awareness of poor air quality in Beijing, as more residents began asking for the blue skies to stay. Christian Shepherd, Washington Post, 8 June 2023 Italian border police boats reportedly turned back to port because of rough seas, and by the time a coast guard vessel, better equipped to navigate in poor sea conditions, reached the area, bodies were already in the water. Frances D'emilio, ajc, 8 June 2023 Here’s what experts had to say about why smoky air can be so dangerous, who should consider taking precautions, and the best practices for masking when there’s poor air quality in your city. Julia Landwehr, Health, 8 June 2023 Chris Stapleton canceled his outdoor concert in Syracuse, New York scheduled for Thursday due to poor air-quality caused by Canada wildfires. Charisma Madarang, Rolling Stone, 8 June 2023 But as a survivor of a pulmonary embolism, Yeampierre is also among those most vulnerable to poor air quality. Yessenia Funes, The New Republic, 8 June 2023 So give the vacuum a break while the air quality is poor. Cara Lynn Shultz, Peoplemag, 8 June 2023 Although poor showings in later primaries soon forced him to withdraw, Robertson’s campaign became a political springboard. Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2023 What are the signs my pet is feeling the effects of poor air quality? Katie Bowlby, Country Living, 8 June 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English poure, from Anglo-French povre, pore, from Latin pauper; akin to Latin paucus little and to Latin parere to give birth to, produce — more at few, pare

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of poor was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near poor

Cite this Entry

“Poor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poor. Accessed 10 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
: lacking riches or possessions
: less than enough
a poor crop
: not good in quality or character of work
: lacking fertility
poor land
: not satisfactory
the patient had a poor day
: lacking in signs of wealth or good taste
poor furnishings
: worthy of pity or sympathy
the poor kitten hurt its paw
poorly adverb
poorness noun


2 of 2 noun plural
: poor people
charity for the poor

More from Merriam-Webster on poor

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