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From Middle French prodigal, from Late Latin prōdigālis (wasteful), from Latin prōdigus (wasteful, lavish, prodigal), from prōdigō (to consume, squander, drive forth), from prōd- [from prō (before, forward)] + agō (to drive). Also see prodigy.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɹɒdɪɡəl/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpɹɑdɪɡəl/, [ˈpʰɹɑɾɪɡɫ̩]


prodigal (comparative more prodigal, superlative most prodigal)

  1. Wastefully extravagant.
    He found himself guilty of prodigal spending during the holidays.
    The prodigal son spent his share of his inheritance until he was destitute.
    • 1834, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter XXIII, in Francesca Carrara. [], volume II, London: Richard Bentley, [], (successor to Henry Colburn), →OCLC, page 257:
      The prodigal heir can only waste his own substance, and the punishment falls, as it should, upon himself; but the prince has an awful responsibility,—the welfare of others is required at his hands;...
  2. (often followed by of or with) Yielding profusely, lavish.
    She was a merry person, glad and prodigal of smiles.
    How can he be so prodigal with money on such a tight budget?
    • 1974, James Herriot, Vet in Harness, page 201:
      Granville poised himself over a vast sirloin, stropped his knife briskly, then began to hack away ruthlessly. He was a prodigal server and piled about two pounds of meat on my plate, then he started on the Yorkshire puddings.
  3. Profuse, lavishly abundant.
  4. (by allusion to the New Testament story commonly called "The Parable of the Prodigal Son", Luke 15:11–32) Behaving as a prodigal son:
    1. Having (selfishly) abandoned a person, group, or ideal.
    2. Returning or having returned, especially repentantly, after such an abandonment.
      • 2012 August 12, Paul Owen, “London 2012 Olympics: day 10”, in The Guardian[1]:
        Simon Hart of the Daily Telegraph has tweeted that the prodigal triple-jumper has come home, in preparation for tomorrow's qualification round.



Derived terms[edit]



prodigal (plural prodigals)

  1. A prodigal person; a spendthrift; a wastrel.



Further reading[edit]