Printable Version
Pronunciation: des-tê-t(y)ut Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Extremely poor, absolutely impoverished, without the basic means of subsistence, 'a destitute family'. 2. Utterly devoid, utterly without, 'trees destitute of leaves'.

Notes: Here is a word indicating the extreme of poverty, way beyond poor. Its adverb is destitutely and the noun is destitution, though the clunkier destituteness is still acceptable.

In Play: This adjective is often used as a noun: "Malcolm was a high-flying Philadelphia yuppie but threw it all away to work with the poor and destitute in the Philly slums." Its uses extend today to all things without something they should have: "Maude Lynn Dresser lives with sense that she is destitute of clothing."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a remodeled version of Latin destitutus "abandoned", the past participle of destituere "to forsake", made up of de "(away) from" + statuere "to put, place", the causative alternative of stare "to stand". Stare comes from PIE sta- "to stand; be firm", same origin as English stand and stay, Russian stojat' "to stand", and Greek stasis "standing still" and stylos "pillar". The -stan in words like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan originates in Persian -stan "county (of)" shares the same source. The Romance languages continued the second meaning of Latin stare, "be firm", in Italian stare, and Portuguese and Spanish estar. (Today we owe a debt of gratitude again to Anna Jung for reminding us that today's Good Word is worthy of exploration.)

Dr. Goodword,

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