fru·​gal | \ ˈfrü-gəl How to pronounce frugal (audio) \

Definition of frugal

: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources

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Other Words from frugal

frugally \ ˈfrü-​gə-​lē How to pronounce frugally (audio) \ adverb

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

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/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 late 16th century, they were already lavishly supplied with earlier coinages to denote the idea, including sparing and thrifty.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web

The company’s frugal culture has been something of a mismatch for the glitzy sales events and long lunches that grease business deals on Madison Avenue. Laura Stevens, WSJ, "Amazon, With Little Fanfare, Emerges as an Advertising Giant," 27 Nov. 2018 Many remain more frugal and independent and resist moving into group housing, analysts say. Esther Fung, WSJ, "Baby Boomers Are Living at Home. That’s Bad News for Senior-Housing Developers.," 30 Oct. 2018 Outgoing governor Jerry Brown was comparatively frugal, often sparring with Democrats in the legislature over spending. Alejandro Lazo, WSJ, "California to Flex Drug Purchasing Power," 7 Jan. 2019 And while Shanghai itself is high-priced (a cold brew and pizza slice at the world’s largest Starbucks will set you back $20), true Shanghainese cuisine happens to favor the frugal, in the form of one of my favorite types of food: dumplings. New York Times, "Conquering High-Priced Shanghai, From Dumplings to Modern Art," 28 Feb. 2018 But at the same time, Apple knocked down the price of the Apple watch Series 3—GPS-only models now start at $279, making it a good alternative to the Series 4 for those who are more frugal. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "You can preorder the Apple Watch Series 4 today, starting at $399," 14 Sep. 2018 In the chip business, fortune doesn’t always favor the frugal. Dan Gallagher, WSJ, "Micron: Spend While You’ve Got It," 29 Aug. 2018 But Virginia, which has one of the nation’s most frugal Medicaid programs, refused. Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, "Va. Senate’s GOP leader tries obscure tactic on eve of Medicaid vote," 29 May 2018 Initially the program was credited for encouraging a frugal shift to generic drugs, but in recent years spending has accelerated., "Feds: Skimping can’t save seniors from rising med cost," 4 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frugal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of frugal

1590, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for frugal

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin frugalis virtuous, frugal, from frug-, frux fruit, value; akin to Latin frui to enjoy

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Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for frugal

The first known use of frugal was in 1590

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More Definitions for frugal



English Language Learners Definition of frugal

: careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to : using money or supplies in a very careful way
: simple and plain


fru·​gal | \ ˈfrü-gəl How to pronounce frugal (audio) \

Kids Definition of frugal

1 : careful in spending or using supplies
2 : simple and without unnecessary things a frugal meal

Other Words from frugal

frugally adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on frugal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for frugal

Spanish Central: Translation of frugal

Nglish: Translation of frugal for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of frugal for Arabic Speakers

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