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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
1500-10; back formation from prodigality
Related forms
prodigally, adverb
1. profligate. See lavish. 2, 3. copious, bounteous. 4. waster, wastrel.
1. cautious, provident. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for prodigal
  • It was not a prodigal's return to neoconservatism, from one simplicity to another.
  • They left others to gather up the flowers which they scattered with a prodigal hand.
  • At a garden party the food is often much more prodigal than at a tea in town.
  • The future of the city is, in great measure, in the hands of these prodigal sons and daughters.
  • She had been prodigal of all her resources, money and energy and imaginative stratagems and loving kindness.
  • The advanced system installed at the centralized location speeds up processing by relying on a computer's prodigal memory.
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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