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c.1200, "lacking money or resources, destitute; needy, indigent; small, scanty," from Old French povre "poor, wretched, dispossessed; inadequate; weak, thin" (Modern French pauvre), from Latin pauper "poor, not wealthy," from pre-Latin *pau-paros "producing little; getting little," a compound from the roots of paucus "little" (see paucity) and parare "to produce, bring forth" (see pare).
Replaced Old English earm. Figuratively from early 14c. Meaning "of inferior quality" is from c.1300. Of inhabited places from c.1300; of soil, etc., from late 14c. The poor boy sandwich, made of simple but filling ingredients, was invented and named in New Orleans in 1921. To poor mouth "deny one's advantages" is from 1965 (to make a poor mouth "whine" is Scottish dialect from 1822). Slang poor man's ________ "the cheaper alternative to _______," is from 1854.
"poor persons collectively," mid-12c., from poor (adj.). The Latin adjective pauper "poor" also was used in a noun sense "a poor man."
The Mosaic legislation regarding the poor is specially important. (1.) They had the right of gleaning the fields (Lev. 19:9, 10; Deut. 24:19,21). (2.) In the sabbatical year they were to have their share of the produce of the fields and the vineyards (Ex. 23:11; Lev. 25:6). (3.) In the year of jubilee they recovered their property (Lev. 25:25-30). (4.) Usury was forbidden, and the pledged raiment was to be returned before the sun went down (Ex. 22:25-27; Deut. 24:10-13). The rich were to be generous to the poor (Deut. 15:7-11). (5.) In the sabbatical and jubilee years the bond-servant was to go free (Deut. 15:12-15; Lev. 25:39-42, 47-54). (6.) Certain portions from the tithes were assigned to the poor (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12, 13). (7.) They shared in the feasts (Deut. 16:11, 14; Neh. 8:10). (8.) Wages were to be paid at the close of each day (Lev. 19:13). In the New Testament (Luke 3:11; 14:13; Acts 6:1; Gal. 2:10; James 2:15, 16) we have similar injunctions given with reference to the poor. Begging was not common under the Old Testament, while it was so in the New Testament times (Luke 16:20, 21, etc.). But begging in the case of those who are able to work is forbidden, and all such are enjoined to "work with their own hands" as a Christian duty (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:7-13; Eph. 4:28). This word is used figuratively in Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; 2 Cor. 8:9; Rev. 3:17.