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[wel-fair] /ˈwɛlˌfɛər/
the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being:
to look after a child's welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society.
financial or other assistance to an individual or family from a city, state, or national government:
Thousands of jobless people in this city would starve if it weren't for welfare.
(initial capital letter) Informal. a governmental agency that provides funds and aid to people in need, especially those unable to work.
on welfare, receiving financial aid from the government or from a private organization because of hardship and need.
Origin of welfare
1275-1325; Middle English, from phrase wel fare. See well1, fare
Related forms
antiwelfare, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for on welfare


health, happiness, prosperity, and well-being in general
  1. financial and other assistance given to people in need
  2. (as modifier): welfare services
Also called welfare work. plans or work to better the social or economic conditions of various underprivileged groups
(informal, mainly Brit) the welfare, the public agencies involved with giving such assistance
(mainly US & Canadian) on welfare, in receipt of financial aid from a government agency or other source
Word Origin
C14: from the phrase wel fare; related to Old Norse velferth, German Wohlfahrt; see well1, fare
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 on welfare



Old English wel faran "condition of being or doing well," from wel (see well (adv.)) + faran "get along" (see fare (v.)). Cf. Old Norse velferð. Meaning "social concern for the well-being of children, the unemployed, etc." is first attested 1904. Welfare state is recorded from 1941.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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on welfare in Culture

welfare definition

Government-provided support for those unable to support themselves. In the United States, it is undertaken by various federal, state, and local agencies under the auspices of different programs, the best known of which are Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and food stamps.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with on welfare

on welfare

see: on relief
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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