fru·​gal ˈfrü-gəl How to pronounce frugal (audio)
: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources
frugally adverb

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Frugal Has Surprising Roots

Those who are frugal are unwilling to (lavishly) enjoy the fruits of their labors, so it may surprise you to learn that frugal ultimately derives from the Latin frux, meaning "fruit" or "value," and is even a distant cousin of the Latin word for "enjoy" (frui). The connection between fruit or value and restraint was first made in Latin; the Middle French word that English speakers eventually adopted as frugal came from the Latin adjective frugalis, a frux descendant meaning "virtuous" or "frugal." Although English speakers adopted frugal by the 16th century, they were already lavishly supplied with earlier coinages to denote the idea, including sparing and thrifty.

Choose the Right Synonym for frugal

sparing, frugal, thrifty, economical mean careful in the use of one's money or resources.

sparing stresses abstention and restraint.

sparing in the offering of advice

frugal implies absence of luxury and simplicity of lifestyle.

ran a frugal household

thrifty stresses good management and industry.

thrifty use of nonrenewable resources

economical stresses prudent management, lack of wastefulness, and use of things to their best advantage.

an economical health-care plan

Examples of frugal in a Sentence

His meals are the frugal fare of the poor: tea, bread, yogurt, a bit of cheese, vegetables. Johanna McGeary, Time, 25 Oct. 2004
Like frugal cooks everywhere, Cajun cooks from generations past found plenty of ways to use every part of the animals they raised. Jeremy Sauer, Cook's Country, June 1995
In a frugal white frame house of tiny rooms that shook with every passing freight train, five boys of German immigrant background had grown up at the turn of the twentieth century. Robert D. Kaplan, An Empire Wilderness, 1988
a frugal meal of bread and cheese by being frugal, the family is able to stretch its monthly budget
Recent Examples on the Web Kill off its Basic Ad-Free pricing tier altogether, pushing frugal SVOD subs to AVOD. Brian Welk, IndieWire, 17 July 2024 And like large corporate chains, the company has also seen customers get a little more frugal lately. Haley Messenger, NBC News, 13 July 2024 Now evidence of potentially life-threatening situations at the Tempe call center is raising fresh concern that Amazon’s frugal approach to health care may be imperiling patient safety. Caroline O'Donovan, Washington Post, 15 June 2024 Pick Geneva over Zurich, Switzerland Don't let Geneva's reputation fool you, says travel writer Erin Levi, who has spent many summers in Geneva as a student and later as a frugal travel writer. Ashley Rossi, USA TODAY, 17 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for frugal 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'frugal.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French & Late Latin; Middle French, borrowed from Late Latin frūgālis "not given to excess, temperate, sober, simple" (early Medieval Latin also "thrifty, sparing"), back-formation from Latin frūgālior, frūgālissimus and frūgāliter, comparative and superlative degrees and adverbial derivative (with the suffix -āl- -al entry 1) of frūgī "(of people, especially slaves) having merit or worth, deserving, sober, thrifty," "(of things) moderate, sober," predicative dative of frūg-, frūx (usually in plural) "edible produce of plants, fruit, crops, grain," root noun from the base of fruor, fruī "to enjoy the produce or proceeds of, derive advantage from" — more at fruit entry 1

Note: The dative noun frūgī must originally have been used with a modifying adjective in a construction such as esse frūgī bonae "to be capable of giving a good harvest or good return," first applied to things, then extended to persons.

First Known Use

1542, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of frugal was in 1542


Dictionary Entries Near frugal

Cite this Entry

“Frugal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


fru·​gal ˈfrü-gəl How to pronounce frugal (audio)
: careful in spending or using resources
frugality noun
frugally adverb

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