Lexical Investigations: Frugal

frugal, piggy bankFrugal is a great word for thrifty people because it glorifies the idea of saving without any of the negative connotations of cheap or miserly. English speakers started using frugal at the turn of the 17th century. While the noun form had already existed in English since the 1530s, the earliest citing of the adjective form is not until Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor about 70 years later.

Though frugal entered English from the Middle French, it ultimately came from the Latin frugalis, meaning “useful,” “proper,” and “economical.” This term, however, stems from frux, which literally means “fruit” and figuratively means “value” or “success.”

It is, at first, odd to think that the word frugal shares its roots with the word fruit, but perhaps there is some logic here. Both frugal and the figurative sense of fruit (something that is valuable) deal with understanding the worth of things. With this knowledge in hand, don’t let anyone bully you for being cheap ever again.

Popular References:
The Frugal Gourmet: the name of the popular PBS cooking show starring Jeff Smith.
Frugalista: a combination of frugal + fashonista, coined in 2005 to describe people who use thrifty means to sustain a stylish lifestyle.

Relevant Quotations:
“[W]e frugal parents would like to get the most bang for our back-to-school buck without busting our budgets.”
–Leah Ingram, Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier & Healthier for Less (2010)

“Even living a frugal lifestyle and saving aggressively may not provide enough savings to allow retirement at the desired age.”
–Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, Richard A. Ferri, Laura F. Dogu, The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning (2010)

Read our previous post about the word motley.

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