Abstract The nature of ‘poverty’ is examined in relation to a model of causes affecting the welfare of a community. It is suggested that one can operationally distinguish four major dimensions of poverty, namely economic, social, political and legal poverty; and that one might in addition be able to characterise three further aspects, namely psychological, ideological and conceptual poverty. It is proposed that at least the first four aspects should be distinguished and explicitly named, thereby specifically characterising these different dimensions of ‘poverty’; and that this would serve a useful purpose in clarifying the nature of the problems faced by the community considered.