: 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 timing of an early June default threatens to hurt the country’s oldest and poorest Social Security recipients, said Kathleen Romig, director of Social Security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Abha Bhattarai, Washington Post, 24 May 2023 Widening income inequality gap between countries The covid-19 pandemic, a surge in global inflation, and increasing public debt has widened the gap between rich and poor countries, according to the Knight Frank wealth report. Mimansa Verma, Quartz, 17 May 2023 Scores over 50 indicate that builders view market conditions as good instead of fair or poor. Taylor Wilson, USA TODAY, 17 May 2023 Rounds played in San Diego slipped 12 percent in the first quarter, likely because of poor weather. Mike Freeman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 May 2023 Unfortunately, almost 1 in 3 is poor, and Vicki joined that statistic. Michael Nelson, BostonGlobe.com, 11 May 2023 Social unrest sparked by those left behind Just how many people could also be made extremely poor is the real question that could prove explosive—particularly for the two countries that DeepMind effectively calls home: the U.K. and the United States. Christiaan Hetzner, Fortune, 10 May 2023 Mexico's own National Human Rights Commission has documented similar poor conditions, especially overcrowding, as well as the detention of children in violation of Mexican law. Conor Finnegan, ABC News, 10 May 2023 It’s also linked to poorer academic achievement and work performance. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 May 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 8 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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