Poverty is a state in which an individual, group, or population lack essential elements of life within their societies. This usually has the connotation of a lack of basic survival items like food, clothing, shelter, and health care, or the financial means to obtain these, but can also mean having less tangible problems like social exclusion, dependency, and the ability to participate in society. Its exact meaning varies considerably with context and the social environments involved.


  • In truth, poverty is an anomaly to rich people. It is very difficult to make out why people who want dinner do not ring the bell.
    • Walter Bagehot, The Waverley Novels (1858)

  • Come away; poverty’s catching.
    • Aphra Behn (1640-1689), English dramatist, The Rover, Pt. 2. I. (1681)

  • There is a solitude in poverty, but a solitude which restores to each thing its value.
    • Albert Camus (1913-1960), French philosopher. ‘Between Yes and No’, World Review magazine, March 1950

  • There's no scandal like rags, nor any crime so shameful as poverty.
    • George Farquhar, The Beaux' Stratagem, Act I, sc. i. (1707)

  • The poor ye have always with you.
    • Jesus, the Bible, Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8

  • For the first time in our history it is possible to conquer poverty.
    • Lyndon B. Johnson's Special Message to Congress (March 16, 1964)

  • Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se
    Quam quod ridiculos homines facit.

    Poverty is bitter, but it has no harder pang than that it makes men ridiculous.
    • Juvenal, Satires, iii. 152

  • The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty.
    • Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara (1906), preface

  • Poverty is no discrace to a man, but it is confoundedly inconvenient.
    • Reverand Samuel F. Smith (1808-1895), American Baptist minister and author. His Wit and Wisdom

  • To be broke is not a disgrace, it is only a catastrophe.
    • Rex Stout, as stated by the character, Nero Wolfe in The League of Frightened Men (1935)

  • As for the virtuous poor, one can pity them of course, but one cannot possibly admire them.
    • Oscar Wilde (1856-1900). ‘The Soul of Man Under Socialism’, originally published in the Fortnightly Review magazine, February 1891

  • We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time. […] I believe putting resources into improving the lives of poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.
    • Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus; quoted in

      Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers

      Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
      • As no one can adventure nearer the throne of God by virtue of his rank, his wealth, or his talent, so no one is kept farther from that throne by his low condition, or by his poverty of wealth, of learning, or of intellect. The prince and the sage are not more welcome to heaven than the poor and ignorant.
        • Albert Barnes, p. 455.

      • Aspirations pure and high —
        Strength to do and to endure —
        Heir of all the Ages, I —
        Lo! I am no longer poor!
        • Julia Caroline Dorr, p. 455.

      • It is not poverty so much as pretense that harasses a ruined man.
        • Washington Irving, p. 455.

      • There is not such a mighty difference as some men imagine between the poor and the rich; in pomp, show, and opinion, there is a great deal, but little as to the pleasures and satisfactions of life. They enjoy the same earth and air and heavens; hunger and thirst make the poor man's meat and drink as pleasant and relishing as all the varieties which cover the rich man's table; and the labor of a poor man is more healthful, and many times more pleasant, too, than the ease and softness of the rich.
        • Thomas Sherlock, p. 454

      • The world's proverb is, "God help the poor, for the rich can help themselves;" but to our mind, it is just the rich who have most need of Heaven's help. Dives in scarlet is worse off than Lazarus in rags, unless Divine love shall uphold him.
        • Charles Spurgeon, p. 454.

      • It was Lazarus faith, not his poverty, which brought him into Abraham's bosom.
        • Richard Chenevix Trench, p. 455.


      • Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
        • Frederick Douglass speech, April 1886

      • Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.
        • Aristotle

      • Wealth converts a strange land into homeland and poverty turns a native place into a strange land.
        • Ali ibn Abi Talib

      • The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.
        • Franklin D. Roosevelt

      • Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn't commit. And one never really forgets either — everything serves as a constant reminder of it.
        • Eli Khamarov

      • It's the same the whole world over,
        It's the poor wot gets the blame,
        It's the rich wot gets the gravy.
        Ain't it all a bleedin' shame?
        • Chorus of the song "She was Poor but she was Honest", popular among British Army soldiers during the First World War.

      • If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
        • Bernard Baruch

      • Poverty must have many satisfactions, else there would not be so many poor people.
        • Don Herold (1889-1966), American Humorist


      • Beg help and you will meet with refusals; ask for alms and you will meet with misers.
        • Anonymous

      • A poor man has no friends.
        • Anonymous

      • He who has no house has no word in society.
        • Anonymous

      • Poverty is no disgrace, but it’s a great inconvenience.
        • English Proverb (16th Century)

      • Beggars cannot be choosers.
        • English proverb (16th Century)
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