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.

Nearby words

  1. procès-verbal,
  2. prod,
  3. prod.,
  4. prodd,
  5. prodi,
  6. prodigal son,
  7. prodigality,
  8. prodigious,
  9. prodigiously,
  10. prodigy

Origin of prodigal

First recorded in 1500–10; back formation from prodigality

Related formsprod·i·gal·ly, adverb

Synonym study

1. See lavish. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prodigal

British Dictionary definitions for prodigal



recklessly wasteful or extravagant, as in disposing of goods or money
lavish in giving or yieldingprodigal of compliments


a person who spends lavishly or squanders money
Derived Formsprodigality, nounprodigally, adverb

Word Origin for prodigal

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

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