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 formsprod·i·gal·ly, adverb

Synonyms for prodigal

Synonym study

1. See lavish.

Antonyms for prodigal Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prodigal

Contemporary Examples of prodigal

Historical Examples of prodigal

  • 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 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