Being very poor; poverty.
Often hyperbolic or poetic in use
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act III, sc. i
It is beyond belief that we know so little about how people get rich or poor, about how it is they come to dwell in comfort and health or die in penury and disease.
— Benoît Mandelbrot, The (Mis)Behavior of Markets (2004)
That sovereign of insufferables, Oscar Wilde has ensued with his opulence of twaddle and his penury of sense. He has mounted his hind legs and blown crass vapidities through the bowel of his neck, to the capital edification of circumjacent fools and foolesses, fooling with their foolers. He has tossed off the top of his head and uttered himself in copious overflows of ghastly bosh. The ineffable dunce has nothing to say and says it—says it with a liberal embellishment of bad delivery, embroidering it with reasonless vulgarities of attitude, gesture and attire.
— Ambrose Bierce, Wasp, 1882
The price of contributing to the greatest literature the world has ever seen is often struggle and penury: art is still too often its own reward. It is salutary sometimes to think of the early deaths of Keats, Shelley, Byron, Chatterton, Dylan Thomas, of the Grub Street struggles of Dr. Johnson, the despair of Gissing and Francis Thompson.
— Anthony Burgess, English Literature: A Survey for Students (1958)
I wanted to see if the sky would fall: you see writers are routinely schooled by their peers that maximal copyright is the only thing that stands between us and penury
— Cory Doctorow, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Penuria is Latin for “want or need”. Same origin as “paena”, “barely or almost”, like “paena insula”, “almost an island”…now peninsula.