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See also: Poor and pöör


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Inherited from Middle English povre, povere, from Old French (and Anglo-Norman) povre, poure, from Latin pauper, from Old Latin *pavo-pars (literally getting little), from Proto-Indo-European *peh₂w- (few, small). Doublet of pauper.

Displaced native arm, wantsome, Middle English unlede (poor) (from Old English unlǣde), Middle English unweli, unwely (poor, unwealthy) (from Old English un- + weliġ (well-to-do, prosperous, rich)).



poor (comparative poorer, superlative poorest)

  1. With no or few possessions or money, particularly in relation to contemporaries who do have them.
    We were so poor that we couldn't afford shoes.
    The poor are always with us.
    The rich are often so insulated from reality that they think the poor have extra money they could save for more than a short time.
  2. Of low quality.
    That was a poor performance.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter X, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071:
      He looked round the poor room, at the distempered walls, and the bad engravings in meretricious frames, the crinkly paper and wax flowers on the chiffonier; and he thought of a room like Father Bryan's, with panelling, with cut glass, with tulips in silver pots, such a room as he had hoped to have for his own.
  3. Used to express pity.
    Oh you poor little thing.
    • 1913, Mrs. [Marie] Belloc Lowndes, chapter I, in The Lodger, London: Methuen, OCLC 7780546; republished in Novels of Mystery: The Lodger; The Story of Ivy; What Really Happened, New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co., [], [1933], OCLC 2666860, page 0056:
      Thanks to that penny he had just spent so recklessly [on a newspaper] he would pass a happy hour, taken, for once, out of his anxious, despondent, miserable self. It irritated him shrewdly to know that these moments of respite from carking care would not be shared with his poor wife, with careworn, troubled Ellen.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 15, in The China Governess[1]:
      Mr. Campion sighed. ‘Poor man,’ he said. ‘He sees his great sacrifices rejected by the gods, and so, no doubt, all the Misses Eumenides let loose again to plague him.’
  4. Deficient in a specified way.
    Cow's milk is poor in iron.
  5. Inadequate, insufficient.
    I received a poor reward for all my hard work.
    • a. 1686, Benjamin Calamy, Sermon 1
      That I have wronged no Man, will be a poor plea or apology at the last day.
    • 1902, John Buchan, The Outgoing of the Tide
      The temptation was more than mortal heart could resist. She gave him the promise he sought, stifling the voice of conscience; and as she clung to his neck it seemed to her that heaven was a poor thing compared with a man's love.
  6. Free from self-assertion; not proud or arrogant; meek.

Usage notes[edit]

When the word "poor" is used to express pity, it does not change the meaning of the sentence. For example, in the sentence "Give this soup to that poor man!", the word "poor" does not serve to indicate which man is meant (and so the sentence expresses exactly the same command as "Give this soup to that man!"). Instead, the word "poor" merely adds an expression of pity to the sentence. (If the meaning were "Give the soup to that [visibly] impoverished man!", the word "poor" would be pronounced with more stress.)



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


poor (plural only)

  1. (plural only) The poor people of a society or the world collectively, the poor class of a society.
    • 1611, King James Bible, Matthew, 26:8–11:
      ...when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might haue bin sold for much, and giuen to the poore. When Iesus vnderstood it, he said vnto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good worke vpon me. For ye haue the poore alwayes with you, but me ye haue not alwayes.
    • 1971, Johnson, Lyndon, The Vantage Point[2], Holt, Reinhart & Winston, →ISBN, LCCN 74-102146, OCLC 1067880747, page 39:
      Harry Truman used to say that 13 or 14 million Americans had their interests represented in Washington, but that the rest of the people had to depend on the President of the United States. That is how I felt about the 35 million American poor. They had no voice and no champion. Whatever the cost, I was determined to represent them. Through me they would have an advocate and, I believed, new hope.
    • 1972, Anonymous translation of Friedrich Engels as "Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith", International Publishers:
      Then there have not always been proletarians?
      No. There have always been poor and working classes; and those who worked were almost always the poor. But there have not always been proletarians, just as competition has not always been free.
    • 2010 Jan. 27, Matt Taibbi, "Populism: Just Like Racism!", True/Slant:
      This is the same Randian bullshit that we've been hearing from people like Brooks for ages and its entire premise is really revolting and insulting—this idea that the way society works is that the productive "rich" feed the needy "poor," and that any attempt by the latter to punish the former for "excesses" might inspire Atlas to Shrug his way out of town and leave the helpless poor on their own to starve. That's basically Brooks's entire argument here. Yes, the rich and powerful do rig the game in their own favor, and yes, they are guilty of "excesses"—but fucking deal with it, if you want to eat.
    The sun shines on the rich and the poor alike but, come the rain, the rich have better umbrellas.



poor (plural poors)

  1. (countable, originally chiefly Scotland) A poor person.
    • 1340, Dan Michel translating Laurent du Bois as Ayenbite of Inwyt, p. 195:
      ...me vint of ane king to huam a poure acsede ane peny...
    • 1625, Thomas Jackson, A Treatise Containing the Originall of Vnbeliefe, Pt. v, Ch. xvi, §6:
      He had given somewhat to every poore in the Parish.
    The poors are at it again.
  2. (obsolete) Synonym of poor cod.

Usage notes[edit]

The countable sense of poor, despite having a long history and continuing existence in some Scottish dialects, is now generally parsed as nonstandard slang and frequently employed with ironic condescension as a critique of supposed upper class views towards the poor.

Derived terms[edit]



poor (third-person singular simple present poors, present participle pooring, simple past and past participle poored)

  1. (transitive, rare) Synonym of impoverish, to make poor.
    • 2003 August 10, Dallas News, p. 3:
      It is very evident that Americans are being ‘poored down’ to suit the world socialist agenda, and to maximize profits for the international corporations.
  2. (intransitive, obsolete) To become poor.
  3. (obsolete) To call poor.

Usage notes[edit]

Although having a long and chiefly Scottish history, verbal use of poor is now generally parsed as a nonstandard innovation and employed within quotes.





From Walloon porea.


poor m

  1. leek

Old French[edit]


poor f (oblique plural poors, nominative singular poor, nominative plural poors)

  1. fear