This article analyses the influence of public discourse about the social risk of poverty on social policy. It examines the rediscovery of poverty as a political topic and the emergence of an anti-poverty policy in France in the 1980s. Drawing on parliamentary debates as well as on a variety of published documents, it answers the question of how welfare associations and political parties described and defined the risk of poverty during the debate, and with which political measures they wanted to combat it. Particular attention shall be paid to the different definitions of poverty. The article argues that formulating the poverty question and defining the meaning of poverty had a great influence on the conception of poverty policy.