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niggard

[nig-erd] /ˈnɪg ərd/
noun
1.
an excessively parsimonious, miserly, or stingy person.
adjective
2.
niggardly; miserly; stingy.
Origin
1325-1375
1325-75; Middle English nyggard, equivalent to nig niggard (< Scandinavian; compare dialectal Swedish nygg; akin to Old English hnēaw stingy) + -ard
Related forms
unniggard, adjective
unniggardly, adverb
Usage note
The words niggard and niggardly are sometimes misinterpreted as racial slurs because they sound like the highly offensive word nigger. However, niggard dates back to Middle English. The first element nygg-, nig- was borrowed from a Scandinavian source, and -ard is a pejorative suffix. The English word niggardly is a modern English formation from niggard. Therefore these two words are not etymologically related to nigger.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for unniggard

niggard

/ˈnɪɡəd/
noun
1.
a stingy person
adjective
2.
(archaic) miserly
Word Origin
C14: perhaps of Scandinavian origin; related to Swedish dialect nygg and Old English hnēaw stingy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for unniggard

niggard

n.

"mean person, miser," late 14c., nygart, of uncertain origin. The suffix suggests French origin (cf. -ard), but the root word is possibly from earlier nig "stingy" (c.1300), perhaps from a Scandinavian source related to Old Norse hnøggr "stingy," from Proto-Germanic *khnauwjaz (cf. Swedish njugg "close, careful," German genau "precise, exact"), and to Old English hneaw "stingy, niggardly," which did not survive in Middle English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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