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[pov-er-tee] /ˈpɒv ər ti/
the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.
Antonyms: riches, wealth, plenty.
deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.:
poverty of the soil.
scantiness; insufficiency:
Their efforts to stamp out disease were hampered by a poverty of medical supplies.
1125-75; Middle English poverte < Old French < Latin paupertāt- (stem of paupertās) small means, moderate circumstances. See pauper, -ty2
Synonym Study
1. Poverty, destitution, need, want imply a state of privation and lack of necessities. Poverty denotes serious lack of the means for proper existence: living in a state of extreme poverty. Destitution, a somewhat more literary word, implies a state of having absolutely none of the necessities of life: widespread destitution in countries at war. Need emphasizes the fact that help or relief is necessary: Most of the people were in great need. Want emphasizes privations, especially lack of food and clothing: Families were suffering from want. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for poverty
  • Millions more are agricultural workers trapped in an inescapable cycle of extreme poverty, illiteracy, and oppression.
  • Students here come from places where there's war, civil unrest, or extreme poverty.
  • Popular statements as to the extreme poverty of expression to which primitive languages are doomed are simply myths.
  • Famine, water shortage and energy poverty not to mention wars caused by the above and lack of space.
  • People forget that extreme poverty as a result of desertification explains much of that country's travails.
  • Measuring poverty by income alone may distort the picture.
  • Material poverty and character both matter.
  • They are also chronically sick, making it harder for them to escape poverty.
  • And millions of people still live in extreme poverty.
  • Despite the growth, poverty has fallen only slowly.
British Dictionary definitions for poverty


the condition of being without adequate food, money, etc
scarcity or dearth: a poverty of wit
a lack of elements conducive to fertility in land or soil
Word Origin
C12: from Old French poverté, from Latin paupertās restricted means, from pauperpoor
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for poverty

late 12c., from Old French poverte "poverty, misery, wretched condition" (Modern French pauvreté), from Latin paupertatem (nominative paupertas) "poverty," from pauper "poor" (see poor (adj.)).

Seeing so much poverty everywhere makes me think that God is not rich. He gives the appearance of it, but I suspect some financial difficulties. [Victor Hugo, "Les Misérables," 1862]
Poverty line attested from 1901; poverty trap from 1966; poverty-stricken from 1803.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for poverty

the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. Poverty is said to exist when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs. In this context, the identification of poor people first requires a determination of what constitutes basic needs. These may be defined as narrowly as "those necessary for survival" or as broadly as "those reflecting the prevailing standard of living in the community." The first criterion would cover only those people near the borderline of starvation or death from exposure; the second would extend to people whose nutrition, housing, and clothing, though adequate to preserve life, do not measure up to those of the population as a whole. The problem of definition is further compounded by the noneconomic connotations that the word poverty has acquired. Poverty has been associated, for example, with poor health, low levels of education or skills, an inability or an unwillingness to work, high rates of disruptive or disorderly behaviour, and improvidence. While these attributes have often been found to exist with poverty, their inclusion in a definition of poverty would tend to obscure the relation between them and the inability to provide for one's basic needs. Whatever definition one uses, authorities and laypersons alike commonly assume that the effects of poverty are harmful to both individuals and society.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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