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

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 The latter was a task for Jess given by Kendall, the prodigal son who after three seasons is unraveling in real time after trying, and failing, to overthrow his father — again. Kathleen Newman-bremang,, 7 Dec. 2021 Were there really more prominent prodigal sons in Charlotte or something? Nate Davis, USA TODAY, 24 Nov. 2021 These are stories of the prodigal sons and daughters after all, and reunification is seen as the ultimate goal. Nylah Burton,, 11 Nov. 2021 Despite the obvious farce, the missing boy’s father, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), wholeheartedly welcomes the return of the prodigal son, and Alexia finds refuge as Alexia-Adrien. NBC News, 13 Oct. 2021 Both were once prodigal children but life hasn’t been kind. Shannon Carlin,, 30 Sep. 2021 Bouncing from Detroit to Birmingham, Ala., to New York City and beyond, it’s a prodigal journey paved with chart-topping highs and soul-crushing lows, starting with Barbara’s untimely death, which sends the young Aretha into silence for weeks. Los Angeles Times, 13 Aug. 2021 In this spirit, Mr. Putin’s essay suggests that if Ukraine adopts a friendly attitude toward Moscow and de-aligns from the West, Russia will welcome the prodigal home without demanding a formal reunion. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 19 July 2021 Two books about different churches and their prodigal daughters coming out in the same year. Seija Rankin,, 2 June 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

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

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Last Updated

28 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Prodigal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

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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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