late 12c., poverte, "destitution, want, need or insufficiency of money or goods," from Old French poverte, povrete "poverty, misery, wretched condition" (Modern French pauvreté), from Latin paupertatem (nominative paupertas) "poverty," from pauper "poor" (see poor (adj.)).
From early 13c. in reference to deliberate poverty as a Christian act. Figuratively from mid-14c., "dearth, scantiness;" of the spirit, "humility," from the Beatitudes.
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 "estimated minimum income for maintaining the necessities of life" is attested from 1891; poverty trap "situation in which any gain in income is offset by a loss of state benefits" is from 1966; poverty-stricken "reduced to a state of poverty" is by 1778.
Poverty is a strong word, stronger than being poor; want is still stronger, indicating that one has not even the necessaries of life ; indigence is often stronger than want, implying especially, also, the lack of those things to which one has been used and that befit one's station ; penury is poverty that is severe to abjectness ; destitution is the state of having absolutely nothing .... [Century Dictionary]
updated on October 02, 2020