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

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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 county's largest city is Flint, where 54% of the population is Black and 38.8% live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, "As COVID-19 vaccine demand slips, officials look for new ways to reach more people," 1 May 2021 That's how many people could be living in poverty in Myanmar by 2022 -- about 48% of the country's population -- if the security and economic situation doesn't improve, according to the United Nations Development Program. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for April 30: Coronavirus, police reform, security hacks, Afghanistan, Israel," 30 Apr. 2021 Charter schools are also eligible for the funding and will receive their own share based on their population of students living in poverty. Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana schools to get nearly $2 billion in federal aid for summer school, learning loss," 30 Apr. 2021 Rheumatic heart disease, an illness that’s often rooted in poverty and reflects a lack of access to basic health services, occurs almost solely among young Indigenous people in Australia, spotlighting the country’s extreme health disparities. New York Times, "How Long Will This Child Live?," 29 Apr. 2021 Last year, the camp went virtual, and the district noticed a specific group of students seemed affected the most: Those in poverty. al, "Alabama district sees ‘overwhelming’ need for English language summer camp," 28 Apr. 2021 The measure could reduce the number of children living in poverty by nearly half, according to a study by the National Academies of Sciences. Los Angeles Times, "Democrats aim for paid family leave and aid well beyond Biden’s expected plan," 27 Apr. 2021 There is already widespread evidence that the digitalization of care has left out underserved populations, such as minority and rural communities, those living in poverty, and the elderly. BostonGlobe.com, "COVID-19 brought health care into the 21st century. Here’s what we need from telehealth next," 26 Apr. 2021 Nepali mountain guides — including some of the best climbers in the world — suddenly found themselves in poverty, forced to rely on growing rye and potatoes for sustenance. Washington Post, "Coronavirus reaches Everest base camp, creating ‘perfect setup for a superspreader event’," 22 Apr. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for poverty

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for poverty

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Poverty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poverty. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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

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Comments on poverty

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