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From Latin pēnūria (want), related to paene (scarcely, adverb), c. 1400. Compare French pénurie.


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɛnjʊɹi/, /ˈpɛnjəɹi/
  • (file)


penury (usually uncountable, plural penuries)

  1. Extreme want; poverty; destitution.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, Proverbs 14:23:
      In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
    • 2009 April 18, Oliver Kamm, “The recession explained”, in The Times Online[1]:
      The hardship, penury and hunger of the early 1930s is etched in the collective memory of older Americans.
    • 2021 December 29, Howard Johnston, “Regional News: Eastern”, in RAIL, number 947, page 20:
      Scrayingham: The churchyard nine miles north-east of York is the last resting place of 'Railway King' George Hudson, who died 150 years ago on December 14. He was responsible for the development of much of the UK's railway network but became financially overstretched. He was found guilty of fraud, was imprisoned, and spent his final years in penury.
  2. (now chiefly poetic) A lack of something; a dearth.
    Synonyms: barrenness, insufficiency

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