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 For the purposes of the theory in its present iteration, the absurd wealth that has accumulated at the top end of polarization is reckoned as part of the national wealth no matter how solidly it is based in poverty. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, "What Kind of Country Do We Want?," 27 May 2020 Today, carless households are 75 percent more likely to be in poverty than those with access to a vehicle. David A. King, Car and Driver, "The Price of Automotive Progress," 23 May 2020 Though Social Security payments alone aren’t enough to sustain most aging households, the Census Bureau has estimated that a majority of seniors today would be living in poverty without them. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "Rebuilding Retirement After the Pandemic," 19 May 2020 Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell are scheduled to testify to a Senate committee about the multi-trillion-dollar federal rescue packages for individuals and businesses. Thursday, May 21 Helping kids living in poverty. David Clark Scott, The Christian Science Monitor, "Monday Sunrise Briefing: A gradual reopening of tourist spots," 18 May 2020 For every mask sold ($16-$20), a donation will be made to Baby2Baby, which helps children living in poverty. oregonlive, "Finding a face mask to fit a child: Disney-theme masks go to daycare," 15 May 2020 So a man who breaks the rules to help kids in poverty during a pandemic isn't your thing??? Alexis Reliford, refinery29.com, "Clare Crawley Is Already Feuding With One Of Her Bachelorette Suitors," 27 Apr. 2020 Hundreds of millions of rural Chinese remain trapped in poverty. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Pandemic Is but One of America’s Security Concerns," 23 Apr. 2020 Epidemiologists say people who live in poverty can often be at higher risk of contracting the virus and suffering more severe complications than the general population. WSJ, "Corrections & Amplifications," 11 Apr. 2020

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

Time Traveler for poverty

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for poverty

Last Updated

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Poverty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poverty. Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for poverty


How to pronounce poverty (audio)

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!