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From Middle English nigard, nygard ‎(miser), from nig ‎(niggardly person), possibly of Scandinavian origin (Old Norse hnǫggr ‎(miserly, stingy)). Possibly cognate to niggle ‎(miser).[1]



niggard ‎(comparative more niggard, superlative most niggard)

  1. Sparing; stinting; parsimonious.
  2. Miserly or stingy.
    • Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, ‎The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote (translated by Tobias Smollett)
      It was, however, the pleasure of his niggard and unhappy fortune, that in seeking a place proper for his accommodation, he and Dapple tumbled into a deep and very dark pit, among a number of old buildings.
    • 1852, William and Robert Chambers, Chambers' Edinburgh Journal:
      [H]is heart swelled within him, as he sat at the head of his own table, on the occasion of the house-warming, dispensing with no niggard hand the gratuitous viands and unlimited beer, which were at once to symbolise and inaugurate the hospitality of his mansion.


niggard ‎(plural niggards)

  1. A miser or stingy person; a skinflint.
    • 1618, John Taylor, The Pennyles Pilgrimage OR The Money-lesse Perambulation of John Taylor:
      All his pleasures were social; and while health and fortune smiled upon him, he was no niggard either of his time or talents to those who needed them.
    • 1955, J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6 "Many Partings":
      ‘No niggard are you, Éomer,’ said Aragorn, ‘to give thus to Gondor the fairest thing in your realm!’
  2. A false bottom in a grate, used for saving fuel.
    • Edward Bulwer Lytton, Godolphin
      It was evening: he ordered a fire and lights; and, leaning his face on his hand as he contemplated the fitful and dusky upbreakings of the flame through the bars of the niggard and contracted grate []
    • From a catalog of the Great Exhibition of 1851:
      Cooking apparatus, adapted for an opening eight feet wide, by five feet high, and containing an open-fire roasting range, with sliding spit-racks and winding cheek or niggard;
    • (Can we date this quote?), Thomas Carlyle, Jane Welsh Carlyle, Lady Gertrude Hoffmann Bliss, Thomas Carlyle: Letters to His Wife, published 1953, page 100:
      Neither this nor the Brompton house have a kitchen-range (that is, Grate like the Miles's), but only a grate with moveable niggards etc.
    • 1979, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, volume 109, Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, page 15:
      A niggard was a movable side to the kitchen grate which could be wound up with a handle so as to make the fire []

Usage notes[edit]

  • This word is unrelated to the racial epithet nigger (a corruption of the Spanish word negro ‎(black)), but some in the United States have taken offense at the word's use due to the phonetic similarity between the words.


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]




  1. ^ Erik Björkman, Scandinavian Loan-words in Middle English, page 34