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the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being:
to look after a child’s welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society.
financial or other assistance to an individual or family from a city, state, or national government:
Thousands of jobless people in this city would starve if it weren’t for welfare.
(initial capital letter) Informal. a governmental agency that provides funds and aid to people in need, especially those unable to work.
on welfare, receiving financial aid from the government or from a private organization because of hardship and need.
Contemporary Examples

Job growth will not be addressed by removing a ban that protects the welfare and dignity of a population of people.
Dwarf Tossing Should Be Illegal Bill Klein October 22, 2011

This is, as others pointed out during the welfare kerfuffle, the great problem with fact checkers.
Facts, Damned “Facts”, and Fact Checkers Megan McArdle October 4, 2012

In other words, the military, like the welfare state, needs to be cut.
Republican vs. Republican Eli Lake November 8, 2012

After college, she was on food stamps for a while and applied for welfare benefits.
In New Jersey, Barbara Buono Is the Last Democrat Standing David Freedlander February 18, 2013

Ryan insinuated that the Democratic Party is selling the American people a welfare state.
Paul Ryan: Democrats Offer Americans a ‘Full Stomach and an Empty Soul’ Olivia Nuzzi March 5, 2014

Historical Examples

The master was under the strongest obligation to promote his welfare.
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 5, Slice 8 Various

For their interests he neglected his own safety and the welfare of France.
The Boy Life of Napoleon Eugenie Foa

Indeed, they are essential to the welfare of every one of the great interests of the West.
State of the Union Addresses of Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt

They exhorted her to be of cheerful mind, and to fear nothing for her future welfare.
The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper

The welfare and happiness, perhaps the very lives of their mothers, their wives, and their children depend on their action.
Frenzied Finance Thomas W. Lawson

health, happiness, prosperity, and well-being in general

financial and other assistance given to people in need
(as modifier): welfare services

Also called welfare work. plans or work to better the social or economic conditions of various underprivileged groups
(informal, mainly Brit) the welfare, the public agencies involved with giving such assistance
(mainly US & Canadian) on welfare, in receipt of financial aid from a government agency or other source

Old English wel faran “condition of being or doing well,” from wel (see well (adv.)) + faran “get along” (see fare (v.)). Cf. Old Norse velferð. Meaning “social concern for the well-being of children, the unemployed, etc.” is first attested 1904. Welfare state is recorded from 1941.

Government-provided support for those unable to support themselves. In the United States, it is undertaken by various federal, state, and local agencies under the auspices of different programs, the best known of which are Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and food stamps.


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