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[prod-i-guh l] /ˈprɒd ɪ gəl/
wastefully or recklessly extravagant:
prodigal expenditure.
giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually followed by of or with):
prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
lavishly abundant; profuse:
nature's prodigal resources.
a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.
Origin of prodigal
First recorded in 1500-10; back formation from prodigality
Related forms
prodigally, adverb
1. profligate. 2, 3. copious, bounteous. 4. waster, wastrel.
1. cautious, provident.
Synonym Study
1. See lavish. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for prodigal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Who, think you, does more injustice, a prodigal man or a saving man?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • Swine were the natural companions of the prodigal, and the sooner he was with them the better!

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • Here, too, are the ironies whereof departed life is prodigal.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • But for her Paula would not have returned, like the prodigal son, to the father's house.

  • I am prodigal enough at times, but I will not part with such a treasure as that.

British Dictionary definitions for prodigal


recklessly wasteful or extravagant, as in disposing of goods or money
lavish in giving or yielding: prodigal of compliments
a person who spends lavishly or squanders money
Derived Forms
prodigality, noun
prodigally, adverb
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin prōdigālis wasteful, from Latin prōdigus lavish, from prōdigere to squander, from pro-1 + agere to drive
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prodigal

mid-15c., a back-formation from prodigality, or else from Middle French prodigal and directly from Late Latin prodigalis, from Latin prodigus "wasteful," from prodigere "drive away, waste," from pro- "forth" (see pro-) + agere "to drive" (see act (v.)). First reference is to prodigial son, from Vulgate Latin filius prodigus (Luke xv:11-32). As a noun, "prodigal person," 1590s, from the adjective (the Latin adjective also was used as a noun).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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