from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Extreme want or poverty; destitution.
  • n. Extreme dearth; barrenness or insufficiency.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. extreme want; poverty; destitution.
  • n. a lack of something; a dearth; barrenness; insufficiency.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Absence of resources; want; privation; indigence; extreme poverty; destitution.
  • n. Penuriousness; miserliness.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Lack; want; scantiness.
  • n. Extreme poverty; want; indigence.
  • n. Parsimoniousness; miserliness.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a state of extreme poverty or destitution


Middle English penurie, from Latin pēnūria, want.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French pénurie ("dearth, lack"), from Latin penuria ("want"). (Wiktionary)



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  • This word was also used in "The Name Of The Rose" book.

    June 12, 2012

  • The fear of penury is very curious, in our age. In really poor ages men did not fear penury. They didn't care.

    David Herbert Lawrence, "Education of the People"

    December 29, 2011

  • an oppressive lack of resources

    August 1, 2009

  • Man's feeble race what ills await!
    Labour, and Penury, the racks of Pain,
    Disease, and Sorrow's weeping train,
    And Death, sad refuge from the storms of fate!
    The fond complaint, my song, disprove,
    And justify the laws of Jove.
    Say, has he given in vain the heavenly Muse?

    - T. Gray, 'The Progress of Poesy'.

    August 11, 2008