the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury. riches, wealth, plenty.
deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.: poverty of the soil. thinness, poorness, insufficiency.
scantiness; insufficiency: Their efforts to stamp out disease were hampered by a poverty of medical supplies. meagerness, inadequacy, sparseness, shortage, paucity, dearth. abundance, surfeit, sufficiency, bounty, glut.

1125–75; Middle English poverte < Old French < Latin paupertāt- (stem of paupertās) small means, moderate circumstances. See pauper, -ty2

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.
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World English Dictionary
poverty (ˈpɒvətɪ)
1.  the condition of being without adequate food, money, etc
2.  scarcity or dearth: a poverty of wit
3.  a lack of elements conducive to fertility in land or soil
[C12: from Old French poverté, from Latin paupertās restricted means, from pauperpoor]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

c.1175, from O.Fr. poverte, from L. paupertatem (nom. paupertas) "poverty," from pauper (see poor).
"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]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


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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Example sentences
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
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.
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