[ wel-fair ]
See synonyms for: welfarewelfares on Thesaurus.com

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. (initial capital letter)Informal. a governmental agency that provides funds and aid to people in need, especially those unable to work.

Idioms about welfare

  1. on welfare, receiving financial aid from the government or from a private organization because of hardship and need.

Origin of welfare

First recorded in 1275–1325; Middle English, from phrase wel fare; equivalent to well1 + fare

Other words from welfare

  • an·ti·wel·fare, adjective

Words Nearby welfare

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use welfare in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for welfare


/ (ˈwɛlˌfɛə) /

  1. health, happiness, prosperity, and well-being in general

    • financial and other assistance given to people in need

    • (as modifier): welfare services

  1. Also called: welfare work plans or work to better the social or economic conditions of various underprivileged groups

  2. the welfare informal, mainly British the public agencies involved with giving such assistance

  3. on welfare mainly US and Canadian in receipt of financial aid from a government agency or other source

Origin of welfare

C14: from the phrase wel fare; related to Old Norse velferth, German Wohlfahrt; see well 1, 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

Cultural definitions for welfare


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.