noun, often attributive
pov·​er·​ty | \ ˈpä-vər-tē How to pronounce poverty (audio) \

Definition of poverty

1a : the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions
b : renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property
3a : debility due to malnutrition
b : lack of fertility

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for poverty

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

Examples of poverty in a Sentence

He was born in poverty. There is a poverty of information about the disease.

Recent Examples on the Web

The federal minimum wage stands at poverty level, $7.25 an hour. Washington Post, "‘Liza on Demand,’ the gig economy and the betrayal of the American worker," 29 Aug. 2019 And 67% lived at or below the poverty level, according to the same report. Jess Mchugh, Fortune, "Title X Has Never Paid for Abortions—But the Trump Administration Gutted It Anyway," 26 Aug. 2019 Yet debt out for collection, use of payday lenders and neighbourhood poverty levels appeared unchanged regardless of whether residents had been evicted or not. The Economist, "New research probes eviction’s causes and consequences," 24 Aug. 2019 The clinic, which also treats patients with hepatitis A and B, accepts patients who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Naseem S. Miller, orlandosentinel.com, "New hepatitis C cases increasing in Florida; local doctor helps treat uninsured," 23 Aug. 2019 Currently households that earn 165% of the poverty level and own up to a $15,000 car can still qualify for SNAP. Hayat Norimine, Dallas News, "Tens of thousands of Dallas County residents at risk of losing SNAP benefits, policy experts say," 22 Aug. 2019 The current federal poverty level is $25,750 for a family of four, according to federal rules. Wilborn P. Nobles Iii, baltimoresun.com, "Trump administration change could eliminate food assistance for estimated 15,000 Baltimore residents," 22 Aug. 2019 If the legislation is passed, the program will begin providing legal representation to eligible tenants -- households with children at 100% of the federal poverty level -- in June 2020. Robert Higgs, cleveland.com, "Cleveland looks to provide legal representation for impoverished families facing eviction," 21 Aug. 2019 According to the state, two-thirds of the patients served at Oregon’s Title X clinics are at, or below the federal poverty level. oregonlive.com, "Oregon clinics reject federal funding to continue to provide information on abortion," 20 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'poverty.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of poverty

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for poverty

Middle English poverte, from Anglo-French poverté, from Latin paupertat-, paupertas, from pauper poor — more at poor

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about poverty

Dictionary Entries near poverty





poverty grass

poverty line

poverty pine

Statistics for poverty

Last Updated

6 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for poverty

The first known use of poverty was in the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for poverty



English Language Learners Definition of poverty

: the state of being poor
formal : a lack of something


pov·​er·​ty | \ ˈpä-vər-tē How to pronounce poverty (audio) \

Kids Definition of poverty

: the condition of being poor : lack of money or possessions


pov·​er·​ty | \ ˈpäv-ərt-ē How to pronounce poverty (audio) \
plural poverties

Medical Definition of poverty

: debility due to malnutrition evidence of poverty in calves

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on poverty

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!