Word Origin & History
1540s, "miserable person, wretch," from L. miser (adj.) "unhappy, wretched," of unknown origin. Original sense now obsolete; main modern meaning of "money-hoarding person" first recorded c.1560, from presumed unhappiness of such people. Besides general wretchedness, the L. word connoted also "intense
erotic love" (cf. slang got it bad "deeply infatuated") and hence was a favorite word of Catullus. In Gk. a miser was kyminopristes, lit. "a cumin seed splitter." In Mod.Gk., he or she might be called hekentabelones, lit. "one who has sixty needles." The Ger. word, filz, lit. "felt," preserves the image of the felt slippers which the miser often wore in caricatures. Lettish mantrausis "miser" is lit. "money-raker."