Extreme dearth; barrenness or insufficiency.(noun)
American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Use "penury" in a sentence
"That's Gordon "prudence" Brown one of whose first acts as Chancellor was to filch money from pension schemes leaving many people with private pensions looking forward to a retirement in penury, whilst he will retire on a nice fat publicly funded final salary scheme."
"Waylaid by want and penury is but a stranger wight!"
"He died not in penury, but in debt, perhaps to the tune of $500,000."