pen·​ny-wise ˈpe-nē-ˌwīz How to pronounce penny-wise (audio)
: wise or prudent only in dealing with small sums or matters

Examples of penny-wise in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web On the other hand, avoid being penny-wise, pound-foolish. Kristine Gill, Better Homes & Gardens, 12 Jan. 2024 Ironically, its source is here on Earth: Congress, which has the penny-wise but pound-foolish policy of releasing just a trickle of funding to the space agency every year, hobbles many of nasa's mission goals that require thinking past a two-year House or six-year Senate term. Phil Plait, Scientific American, 30 Oct. 2023 Delaying investments in sustainable energy and climate adaptation (such as coastal retreat in response to sea-level rise) is penny-wise but immensely pound-foolish. Corinne Purtill, Los Angeles Times, 18 Aug. 2023

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

Word History


from the phrase penny-wise and pound-foolish

First Known Use

1598, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of penny-wise was in 1598

Dictionary Entries Near penny-wise

Cite this Entry

“Penny-wise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: wise only in small or unimportant matters

More from Merriam-Webster on penny-wise

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