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.
  2. Of low quality.
    That was a poor performance.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 10, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
      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 [word deleted], 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 notesEdit

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.)




Hyponyms of poor (adjective)

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit


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 pl (plural only)

  1. Poor people as a group. (Now almost always used with the definite article: the poor)
    The rich are often so insulated from reality that they think the poor have extra money they could save for a long time.
    Almost no reform is approved by both (the) poor and (the) rich.




From Walloon porea.


poor m

  1. leek

Old FrenchEdit


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

  1. fear