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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).


  • (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, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara, volume 2, 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?
  3. Profuse, lavishly abundant.
  4. (by allusion to the Biblical parable of the prodigal son) Returning, especially repentantly, after having (selfishly) abandoned a person, group, or ideal; behaving as a prodigal son.
    • 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.



Further reading[edit]