adjective, poor·er, poor·est.


(used with a plural verb) poor persons collectively (usually preceded by the): sympathy for the poor.


    poor as a church mouse, extremely poor.
    poor as Job's turkey, extremely poor; impoverished.

Origin of poor

1150–1200; Middle English pov(e)re < Old French povre < Latin pauper. See pauper
Related formspoor·ness, nounnon·poor, nounqua·si-poor, adjectivequa·si-poor·ly, adverb
Can be confusedpaw poor pore

Synonyms for poor

1. needy, indigent, necessitous, straitened, destitute, penniless, poverty-stricken. Poor, impecunious, impoverished, penniless refer to those lacking money. Poor is the simple term for the condition of lacking means to obtain the comforts of life: a very poor family. Impecunious often suggests that the poverty is a consequence of unwise habits: an impecunious actor. Impoverished often implies a former state of greater plenty, from which one has been reduced: the impoverished aristocracy. Penniless may mean destitute, or it may apply simply to a temporary condition of being without funds: The widow was left penniless with three small children. 5. meager. 6. unsatisfactory, shabby. 7. sterile, barren, unfruitful, unproductive. 8. thin, skinny, meager, gaunt. 14. miserable, unhappy, pitiable.

Antonyms for poor

1, 5, 7. rich. 1, 3, 4. wealthy.

Pronunciation note

In the North and North Midland U.S., the vowel of poor is most often [oo] /ʊ/. Poor and sure thus contrast with pour and shore: [poor] /pʊər/, [shoor] /ʃʊər/ versus [pawr] /pɔr/, [shawr] /ʃɔr/ or [pohr] /poʊr/, [shohr] /ʃoʊr/. In the South Midland and South, the vowel of poor is generally [aw] /ɔ/ or [oh] /oʊ/ (often with the final (r) dropped), which means that in these areas, poor and pour are homophones, as are sure and shore. Both types of pronunciation exist in the British Isles.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for poor

Contemporary Examples of poor

Historical Examples of poor

  • Eudora was a mere infant when Phidias bought her of a poor goatherd in Phelle.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • He would not adopt a nameless orphan, found with a poor goatherd of Phelle.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Men who take from the poor daily interest for a drachma, and spend it in debauchery.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Ask the poor fisherman at the gates, who has been to him as a brother; and he will answer 'Anaxagoras.'


    Lydia Maria Child

  • "It is partly for your sake that I wish it, my poor child," said he.


    Lydia Maria Child

British Dictionary definitions for poor



  1. lacking financial or other means of subsistence; needy
  2. (as collective noun; preceded by the)the poor
characterized by or indicating povertythe country had a poor economy
deficient in amount; scanty or inadequatea poor salary
(when postpositive, usually foll by in) badly supplied (with resources, materials, etc)a region poor in wild flowers
lacking in quality; inferior
giving no pleasure; disappointing or disagreeablea poor play
(prenominal) deserving of pity; unluckypoor John is ill again
poor man's something a (cheaper) substitute for something
Derived Formspoorness, noun

Word Origin for poor

C13: from Old French povre, from Latin pauper; see pauper, poverty
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

Word Origin and History for poor

c.1200, "lacking money or resources, destitute; needy, indigent; small, scanty," from Old French povre "poor, wretched, dispossessed; inadequate; weak, thin" (Modern French pauvre), from Latin pauper "poor, not wealthy," from pre-Latin *pau-paros "producing little; getting little," a compound from the roots of paucus "little" (see paucity) and parare "to produce, bring forth" (see pare).

Replaced Old English earm. Figuratively from early 14c. Meaning "of inferior quality" is from c.1300. Of inhabited places from c.1300; of soil, etc., from late 14c. The poor boy sandwich, made of simple but filling ingredients, was invented and named in New Orleans in 1921. To poor mouth "deny one's advantages" is from 1965 (to make a poor mouth "whine" is Scottish dialect from 1822). Slang poor man's ________ "the cheaper alternative to _______," is from 1854.


"poor persons collectively," mid-12c., from poor (adj.). The Latin adjective pauper "poor" also was used in a noun sense "a poor man."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper