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From Latin prōflīgātus (wretched, abandoned), participle of prōflīgō (strike down, cast down), from pro (forward) + fligere (to strike, dash).



profligate (comparative more profligate, superlative most profligate)

  1. Inclined to waste resources or behave extravagantly.
    Synonyms: extravagant, wasteful, prodigal; see also Thesaurus:prodigal
    • 1834, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara, volume 2, page 258:
      His undignified and profligate exile—needy suitor to-day to the only heiress of the royal French blood, and to-morrow to one of the nieces of the Italian adventurer, Mazarin. Utterly neglectful of what he owes to the kingdom which he hopes to regain, Charles has learned but adversity's worst lesson—expediency.
    • 2013, Ben Smith, "[1]", BBC Sport, 19 October 2013:
      Jay Rodriguez headed over and Dani Osvaldo might have done better with only David De Gea to beat and, as Southampton bordered on the profligate, United were far more ruthless.
    • 2018, Oliver Bullough, chapter 4, in Moneyland, Profile Books, →ISBN, page 65:
      This luxury-loving and profligate shell company is registered at a betting shop on the Caledonian Road, an unlovely thoroughfare in North London on which you'd be more likely to find amphetamines than a top-notch lawyer.
  2. Immoral; abandoned to vice.
    Synonyms: immoral, licentious
    • 1685, John Dryden, To The Pious Memory of the Accomplish'd Young Lady Mrs. Anne Killigrew
      Made prostitute and profligate the muse.
    • a. 1686, Earl of Roscommon [i.e., Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon]; Samuel Johnson, “The Sixth Ode of the Third Book of Horace”, in The Works of the English Poets. With Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, [], volume X (The Poems of Rochester, Roscommon, and Yalden), London: [] E. Cox; for C. Bathurst, [], published 1779, page 257, OCLC 4254798:
      Time ſenſibly all things impairs; / Our fathers have been worſe than theirs; / And we than ours; next age will ſee / A race more profligate than we / (With all the pains we take) have ſkill enough to be.
  3. (obsolete) Overthrown, ruined.

Usage notes[edit]

The words profligate and decadent both describe the moral decay of wretched excess among rich people, and both have etymologic roots in the concept of having fallen down or sunk to a new low, figuratively and (originally) literally.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


profligate (plural profligates)

  1. An abandoned person; one openly and shamelessly vicious; a dissolute person.
  2. An overly wasteful or extravagant individual.
    Synonyms: wastrel; see also Thesaurus:spendthrift, Thesaurus:prodigal



profligate (third-person singular simple present profligates, present participle profligating, simple past and past participle profligated)

  1. (obsolete) To drive away; to overcome.
    • 1840, Alexander Walker, Woman Physiologically Considered as to Mind, Morals, Marriage, Matrimonial Slavery, Infidelity and Divorce, page 157:
      Such a stipulation would remove one powerful temptation to profligate pennyless seducers, of whom there are too many prowling in the higher circles ;

Related terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]




  1. vocative masculine singular of prōflīgātus