prod·​i·​gal | \ ˈprä-di-gəl How to pronounce prodigal (audio) \

Definition of prodigal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish a prodigal feast prodigal outlays for her clothes
2 : recklessly spendthrift the prodigal prince
3 : yielding abundantly : luxuriant often used with of nature has been so prodigal of her bounty— H. T. Buckle



Definition of prodigal (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one who spends or gives lavishly and foolishly
2 : one who has returned after an absence

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Other Words from prodigal


prodigality \ ˌprä-​də-​ˈga-​lə-​tē How to pronounce prodigal (audio) \ noun
prodigally \ ˈprä-​di-​g(ə-​)lē How to pronounce prodigal (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for prodigal


profuse, lavish, prodigal, luxuriant, lush, exuberant mean giving or given out in great abundance. profuse implies pouring forth without restraint. profuse apologies lavish suggests an unstinted or unmeasured profusion. a lavish party prodigal implies reckless or wasteful lavishness threatening to lead to early exhaustion of resources. prodigal spending luxuriant suggests a rich and splendid abundance. a luxuriant beard lush suggests rich, soft luxuriance. a lush green lawn exuberant implies marked vitality or vigor in what produces abundantly. an exuberant imagination

Examples of prodigal in a Sentence

Adjective We sipped our beers and wondered at one another, at what was left of all that and of those prodigal days. — Michael Chabon, A Model World and Other Stories, 1991 Mr. Bulstrode replied without haste, but also without hesitation. "I am grieved, though, I confess, not surprised by this information, Mr. Lydgate. For my own part, I regretted your alliance with my brother-in-law's family, which has always been of prodigal habits, and which has already been much indebted to me for sustainment in its present position … " — George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1872 The prodigal use of antibiotics in animals has the same consequence as their overprescription for human beings. — Cullen Murphy, New York Times Book Review, 10 June l984 the prodigal child always spent her allowance the minute she got it Noun Such a trustee had been first instituted by the praetor, to save a family from the blind havoc of a prodigal or madman … — Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1788 the million-dollar lottery winner was such a prodigal that his windfall was exhausted after only a few years
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Aaron Rodgers, the prodigal son, held court following his first practice with the Green Bay Packers following his long stalemate with the team. Mike Hart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 30 July 2021 There are only 10 Sox players left who were members of the 2018 team, including prodigal son Brandon Workman., 18 July 2021 But both used the rebuilding period of the years afterward to show off their prodigal athletic talents. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 Apr. 2021 The parable of the prodigal son, in particular, is cleverly staged and emotionally real. Matthew J. Palm,, 24 Apr. 2021 While Harry will be keeping to himself before attending the funeral, the prodigal son returns to another gusher of coverage, where the emergent narrative now appears to be: Will the royal family and Harry patch things up? Washington Post, 12 Apr. 2021 Intel's board, which passed him over for the top job in 2005, this year decided to welcome back the prodigal son following a rocky period under prior CEO Bob Swan. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, 23 Mar. 2021 In a 2018 video posted on the church’s Facebook page, Long discussed how the biblical parable of the prodigal son led him to rededicate his life to Jesus Christ. Jeremy Redmon, ajc, 20 Mar. 2021 The prodigal painter later left Zuccato’s studio to study with Giovanni Bellini, one of the most prominent Venetian artists of his time. Isis Davis-marks, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun He is angered by his father’s instant acceptance of the prodigal’s return. Scott Burns, Dallas News, 18 Dec. 2020 As a youth, Mr. Graham, now 65, was the prodigal of the Graham family, a college dropout fond of alcohol. Elizabeth Dias, New York Times, 27 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'prodigal.' 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 prodigal


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1561, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prodigal

Adjective and Noun

Latin prodigus, from prodigere to drive away, squander, from pro-, prod- forth + agere to drive — more at pro-, agent

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Time Traveler for prodigal

Time Traveler

The first known use of prodigal was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near prodigal




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Statistics for prodigal

Last Updated

6 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prodigal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for prodigal



English Language Learners Definition of prodigal

: carelessly and foolishly spending money, time, etc.


prod·​i·​gal | \ ˈprä-di-gəl How to pronounce prodigal (audio) \

Kids Definition of prodigal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: carelessly wasteful a prodigal spender



Kids Definition of prodigal (Entry 2 of 2)

: somebody who wastes money carelessly

More from Merriam-Webster on prodigal

Nglish: Translation of prodigal for Spanish Speakers


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