Definition of poor in English:


Pronunciation: /pʊə//pɔː/


  • 1Lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society.

    ‘they were too poor to afford a telephone’
    ‘the gap between the rich and the poor has widened’
    • ‘In our developing, but poor and deprived, society it is the task of the government to provide the means of education.’
    • ‘Without a well-educated populace we are a poor and intellectually bankrupt society.’
    • ‘The same illustration with the boy can also be translated into our global society where we have poor and wealthy nations.’
    • ‘The essays are written by women who either grew up poor or are currently living in poverty.’
    • ‘Excuse me, but wouldn't that involve transferring wealth from rich individuals and societies to the poor?’
    • ‘You ask me why we cannot spend all our money to feed the poor and make them live a better life instead of going for Hajj.’
    • ‘After retirement, he is still serving the society, especially the poor.’
    • ‘Perhaps the poor, who live in adobe houses, ran amok with automatic dishwashers.’
    • ‘Today the national society serves the poor with its free soup kitchens and numerous forms of humanitarian relief.’
    • ‘For six years he lived among the poor along the Code River in Yogyakarta, and built a Community Centre for them.’
    • ‘It is unrealistic to ask rich students to love the spirit of poverty and live as the poor.’
    • ‘The nun wrote that she had been fearful of having to live among the poor, but that Christ reminded her that she had always said He could do with her as He pleased.’
    • ‘Until the beginning of the 20th century, Bavaria was a mostly agrarian society and a poor one at that.’
    • ‘Whether the black poor live or die seems to merit only haughty disinterest and indifference.’
    • ‘Narayana is a poor radio mechanic who lives in Vittal, Karnataka, and has a four-member family.’
    • ‘For a society slow and too poor to discard the traditional facade, the sharks set a calculatedly reassuring trap.’
    • ‘The reforms would widen the gap between rich and poor, creating a society of haves and have-nots.’
    • ‘The purpose and character of the festival We Are One Family is to unite orphans who have been living in poor conditions.’
    • ‘She lives in housing for poor seniors and cannot afford to repair her own vehicle, which she says broke down four years ago.’
    • ‘Tarleton says he lives poor for political reasons: he doesn't pay income tax.’
    • ‘In this way it hopes to boost living standards across a broad swathe of poor rural society.’
    poverty-stricken, impoverished, necessitous, beggarly, in penury, penurious, impecunious, indigent, needy, needful, in need, in want, badly off, low-paid, in reduced circumstances, in straitened circumstances, destitute, hard up, short of money, on one's beam-ends, unable to make ends meet, underprivileged, deprived, penniless, without a sou, as poor as a church mouse, moneyless
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1(of a place) inhabited by people with little money.
      ‘the world's poorest countries’
      • ‘For one thing, their kids will get all the money, and the poor world will get diddly-squat.’
      • ‘Many of those youths, identified as coming in from the poor suburbs, battled the police, burned cars and smashed store windows.’
      • ‘I live in a poor state that does not allocate sufficient resources to education.’
      • ‘A stronger United Nations is needed to counter insurgency and warlordism in the poor regions of the world as well as the richer ones.’
      • ‘The place was poor beyond the conceptions of a privileged 21 st-century Westerner.’
      • ‘And similar reasons are why abortion and childcare haven't penetrated this Far East in a very poor area of the world.’
      • ‘A poor place to be when, as he expects, the negotiations begin some time after the next elections.’
      • ‘The only negative thing about this is that it only applies to the western world, as other parts of the world are too poor to invest money in similar projects.’
      • ‘The area surrounding the camp is extremely poor with an unemployment rate of 80 percent.’
      • ‘The church is growing most in poor places like Africa and Asia where infant mortality remains high.’
      • ‘Eighteen months later the family Davids emigrated to Holland, where they settled in a poor suburb just north of Amsterdam.’
      • ‘Beknazarov represented the remote constituency of Aksy district, a poor region in the south of the country.’
      • ‘The place was very poor, the bedroom being upstairs and accessible only by a ladder.’
      • ‘The mistake led the government to waive thousands of pounds in stamp duty in a well-to-do suburb instead of poor areas of Manchester.’
      • ‘They both laboured to earn enough to take a lease on a small farm at Gumeracha, near Adelaide, but the land was poor and the rainfall scant.’
      • ‘The main poor site in the town was at the Industrial Estate off Monean Junction.’
      • ‘The blasts struck in rapid succession during rush hour on two parallel and adjacent streets in a poor district of the city.’
      • ‘India is not the only poor place on earth and violence is not all terrorism related.’
      • ‘Our first impressions were that it seemed a very run-down and poor city with an abundance of homeless people.’
      • ‘Whether a place is poor or well-off depends not on the size of the town government building.’
  • 2Of a low or inferior standard or quality.

    ‘many people are eating a very poor diet’
    ‘her work was poor’
    • ‘Conditions were poor at the turn of the century and employment was at a low ebb.’
    • ‘Even if the football is usually secondary, and poor quality.’
    • ‘The instruments trudge along at a snail's pace and the recording quality is poor at best.’
    • ‘Smoking, poor diet quality and obesity are all clear markers of social disadvantage and a lack of education.’
    • ‘Bedfordshire was rated weak by Government inspectors last year and poor at its previous inspection.’
    • ‘If only 10 people apply you have to take all comers - those who will be good, mediocre, and poor at the job.’
    • ‘The council has been rated ‘fair’ the middle ranking on a scale that ranges from poor at one end to excellent on the other.’
    • ‘Thai motorists have a new ally in the fight against poor vehicle quality and shoddy after-sales service.’
    • ‘Hall is a lifelong resident of the valley, where poor air quality is second only to that of Los Angeles.’
    • ‘A local police official blamed shoddy construction and the poor quality of the cement.’
    • ‘In a poor quality second half, the home side added another two goals.’
    • ‘But the Decatur plant is not the only facility cited for poor quality standards.’
    • ‘Ignatius Street was a particular problem area with the quality of lighting very poor at each end of it.’
    • ‘The quality of the Parke Group Water Scheme is very poor at present and should not be used until further notices.’
    • ‘Generally I think the police service is pretty poor at disseminating good practice.’
    • ‘Property services, which were poor at the last inspection have improved little and remain unsatisfactory.’
    • ‘The generally poor and occasionally atrocious quality of the writing doesn't help.’
    • ‘Like Victor Agarwel, I am inclined to think councils are very poor at thinking all the issues through.’
    • ‘Information dissemination and knowledge of law are poor at this level.’
    • ‘Kitchens received were faulty or poor quality with damaged parts.’
    substandard, below standard, below par, bad, deficient, defective, faulty, imperfect, inferior, mediocre
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Deficient or lacking in.
      ‘the water is poor in nutrients’
      • ‘That's how I feel about most of Burton's work - great in concept, poor in execution.’
      • ‘Today, albeit poor in reception quality, I got to catch familiar faces reading news.’
      • ‘It doesn't matter how poor in quality the disciple may be: it matters only that he believe implicitly.’
      • ‘He was very poor in studies and no amount of scolding or advice made any difference to his attitude.’
      • ‘Children and adults who excel in one area, such as math, are very poor in other areas.’
      • ‘The reason why the bones were boiled for a long time was that it was believed the bones were poor in nutritive value.’
      • ‘We are not putting both these to good use as a result the fruits we are producing are poor in quality and less in quantum.’
      • ‘I bawled at the Guardian executive, because the reception is pretty poor in some parts of the Chilterns.’
      • ‘If the legislature's hardware is poor in quality, its software is even worse.’
      • ‘Iraq is relatively poor in species because of the arid nature of much of the country.’
      • ‘Today, Israel is rich in material things but poor in others - the things of the mind.’
      • ‘To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge one spiritual poverty and brokenness.’
      • ‘The hospital had a good system in place to monitor risks but was poor in learning from the available information.’
      deficient in, short of, short on, low on, missing, with an insufficiency of, with too few …, with too little …
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    2. 2.2dated Used ironically to deprecate something belonging to or offered by oneself.
      ‘he is, in my poor opinion, a more handsome young man’
  • 3[attributive] (of a person) deserving of pity or sympathy.

    ‘they enquired after poor Dorothy's broken hip’
    • ‘I mean, I just pity poor William, what the hell that man is going to face as he comes in to open life.’
    • ‘James knew very well what Ben wanted to test, and once again he felt a stab of pity for the poor girl.’
    • ‘Then lunchtimes: pity the poor teachers who had class last thing before lunch on a Friday.’
    • ‘The manager instantly began to pity the poor man, but not too much and walked away.’
    • ‘Pity poor Kenneth Welsh, with the weaselly demeanor only a mother could love.’
    • ‘Pity the poor guy who had to cut all the peats to keep that warm in the winter.’
    • ‘The aging process had clearly not taken any pity on poor Judge Wykk at all.’
    • ‘Pity the poor man born in Glasgow's Shettleston, for example, who is not expected to make 65.’
    • ‘And I couldn't help but pity the poor chap who finds himself grappling with one of these after a night out on the sauce with his hot date.’
    • ‘In spite of his less than friendly attitude toward the man, Carson couldn't help feeling some sympathy for the poor guy.’
    • ‘I saw it's running until March next year and I pity the poor staff.’
    • ‘She pitied the poor scientist who'd caught the major part of his wrath.’
    • ‘Pity those poor residents who put up with those conditions on a daily basis!’
    • ‘What did this poor woman do to deserve a child like Geoff?’
    • ‘We have no shows of sympathy for the poor man trying to fit everything into 24 hours.’
    • ‘I pitied the poor fellow, he was so deeply in earnest; but all the same I could not help laughing.’
    • ‘I have the greatest sympathy for this poor woman in her tragic loss, but just think about it!’
    • ‘Should Munster lose, pity the poor man who moved the game to the capital purely for financial reasons.’
    • ‘And I pity the poor judge who's going to have to explain those words to a jury.’
    • ‘Pity the poor child who makes any kind of a drawing that has anything to do with firearms.’
    unfortunate, unlucky, luckless, unhappy, hapless, ill-fated, ill-starred, pitiable, pitiful, wretched
    View synonyms


  • (as) poor as a church mouse

    • Extremely poor.

      • ‘For Louis Hawthorne had been written out of his father's will and was, at that time, as poor as a church mouse.’
      • ‘The Mouseman, as he was known, adopted the mouse motif after overhearing a craftsman speaking of being as poor as a church mouse.’
      • ‘They have created a public debt of such appalling magnitude that our descendants, for whom we had such high hopes, will come into this world as poor as church mice.’
      • ‘Is it just sour grapes because I'm poor as a church mouse and live half a planet away from all the action?’
      • ‘He also learns that his brother is very well off and confides in the priest that he is unsure how his brother will receive him since he is as poor as a church mouse now.’
      • ‘Everyone was as poor as church mice but you enjoyed life without material things.’
      • ‘Basically, here is my deal: I just graduated from law school (I went to Pitt) and I am as poor as a church mouse, as I have yet to find a ‘real’ job, and I am trying to pay some horrid student loans.’
      • ‘Whilst carving the oak beam he remarked, ‘I am as poor as a church mouse.’’
      • ‘The local officials (who secured and guaranteed the loan) have long been replaced and the farmers are as poor as church mice,’ Chen said.’
      poverty-stricken, impoverished, necessitous, beggarly, in penury, penurious, impecunious, indigent, needy, needful, in need, in want, badly off, low-paid, in reduced circumstances, in straitened circumstances, destitute, hard up, short of money, on one's beam-ends, unable to make ends meet, underprivileged, deprived, penniless, without a sou, as poor as a church mouse, moneyless
      View synonyms
  • poor little rich boy (or girl)

    • A wealthy young person whose money brings them no contentment.

      • ‘I played Aleisha Smiler, who was more or less a poor little rich girl.’
      • ‘And then there's Hadley, the quintessential poor little rich girl, happy in her material world but vacant everywhere else.’
      • ‘Were her actions not described with such painful clarity and raw truthfulness, it would be easy to dismiss Millie and her angst as the story of another poor little rich girl, playing a dangerous game in a world where she doesn't belong.’
      • ‘Its titular heroine is a poor little rich girl, looking for, and ostensibly finding, Mr Right in Vienna during the declining years of the Austro-Hungarian empire.’
      • ‘In response to both mentalities, however, America turns out to be a poor little rich girl who needs nothing more than the real virility of Australia or the real domesticity of England.’
      • ‘People may have thought it seemed like it was complaining on our parts - because people looked at us like poor little rich girls who have all this money and are celebrities and yet are complaining about not getting more work.’
      • ‘And god, I wanted to be the poor little rich girl.’
      • ‘After Jemima's decision to complain publicly about her lifestyle, it is easy to brand her a poor little rich girl.’
      • ‘I have my usual conflicting beliefs with the ‘poor little rich boys ' part.’
      • ‘My favourite is Shannon, the poor little rich girl (yet to get her own backstory).’
  • the poor man's ——

    • An inferior or cheaper substitute for the thing specified.

      ‘corduroy has always been the poor man's velvet’
      • ‘Yes, somehow the poor man's Adrian Juste has wound up on - what is by default - the coolest radio station on ‘proper’ radio.’
      • ‘Spirit of the Dance was originally regarded as the poor man's Riverdance but has now been seen by more than 30 million people.’
      • ‘Steven Seagal is like the poor man's Sylvester Stallone.’
      • ‘I guess in a way you could think of Dante as the poor man's Tim Burton.’
      • ‘It's never good when you're the poor man's Knicks.’
      • ‘‘He was not the poor man's Bruce Springsteen,’ says Janet Hackel.’
      • ‘It may be seen by some as the poor man's Ferrari, but it is nonetheless one to feel extremely passionate about.’
      • ‘Meanwhile in Virginia, the USA take on the International team in the poor man's Ryder Cup’
      • ‘Pardon the pun, but I'm what you'd call the poor man's Kevin Bacon.’
      • ‘If I ever achieve my destiny as the poor man's Stephen Fry, I am so going to do that.’
      • ‘Now Dundee is striking back against its image as the poor man's Smolensk.’
  • poor relation

    • A person or thing that is considered inferior or subordinate to others of the same type or group.

      ‘for many years radio has been the poor relation of the media’
      • ‘He said: ‘I think the people of Mytholmroyd have felt to be treated like the poor relations of Hebden Bridge, which is an area of outstanding beauty.’’
      • ‘According to the survey, livestock farmers remain the poor relations, with sheep farmers' incomes up just 4% to an average €12,900 per annum.’
      • ‘He said despite having a seat at the table with the leaders of the world's richest nations, the African leaders will still be seen as what he calls poor relations crashing the party.’
      • ‘He said: ‘Our members are fed up with being the poor relations of the public sector and are determined to demonstrate that strength of feeling to our employer.’’
      • ‘According to a source at the State Department, most Tier 3 countries are the ones that have poor relations with the U.S. government, such as North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.’
      • ‘Their counterparts in Scotland and Wales are once again the poor relations, averaging £61,928 for Scottish GPs and £65,014 for Welsh ones.’
      • ‘Is it any wonder that many in this community believe that we are very much poor relations in health care provision?’
      • ‘It is becoming clearer too that poorer countries are no longer prepared to be the poor relations of the first world, as at the last round of talks in Cancun, Mexico, when 17 countries turned their backs on what was being proposed.’
      • ‘Press see authors as poor relations of Bollywood but most authors don't see themselves like that,’ Rana Dasgupta says.’
      • ‘One of the things I've always been is an evangelist and I've always felt that the applied arts are very much the poor relations of fine arts - painting, sculpture and architecture.’
  • take a poor view of

    • Regard with disapproval.

      ‘Heraclitus took a poor view of popular religion’
      • ‘Alan O'Brien rode his second winner, and his first in Ireland, when the Eddie Hales-trained Shuilan stayed on strongly in the bumper but the stewards took a poor view of the way the 19-year-old used his whip.’


Middle English: from Old French poure, from Latin pauper.