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 prodigality (audio) \ noun
prodigally \ ˈprä-​di-​g(ə-​)lē How to pronounce prodigally (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


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


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

Disney’s acquisition of Fox earlier this year reunited the Marvel family, but a rift between Sony and Disney threatens again to make Spider-Man the prodigal son. Cicero Estrella, The Mercury News, "Stan Lee would have supported checks and balances on Spider-Man, other Marvel characters, daughter says," 22 Aug. 2019 Up until recently, Barcelona had been the only reasonable exit route for the wantaway Paris Saint-Germain forward, with the club exploring every possible avenue to bring the prodigal Brazilian back to Camp Nou and end his Parisian hell., "Real Madrid 'Close' to Neymar Deal With Barcelona Unwilling to Pay Cash for Wantaway Superstar," 11 Aug. 2019 Taron Egerton stars as the fashionable pop legend from his prodigal younger years to becoming an international superstar to battling personal demons and various addictions later in life. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Fourth of July movie guide: The 11 biggest films to keep you entertained after the fireworks," 26 June 2019 Minnesota looked on as its prodigal basketball son improved with each season. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, "Tyus Jones grateful for his time with Timberwolves, ready for ‘new opportunities’ in Memphis," 18 July 2019 Although Barcelona are waiting in the wings to bring the prodigal son back to his former home, there are no guarantees that Neymar and Los Cules will be playing happy families if the frankly ridiculous transfer goes through., "Why Re-Signing Neymar from PSG Is a Step in the Wrong Direction for Barcelona," 13 July 2019 Evans’s prodigal son certainly seems none too thrilled to be cooped up as the gumshoes sleuth around the family estate, cursing out his relatives one by one. Isaac Feldberg,, "First ‘Knives Out’ trailer teases a star-studded, modern-day whodunnit led by Chris Evans," 2 July 2019 Abby has been obsessed with Elise for years, and seizes the opportunity to insinuate herself into every corner of her prodigal friend’s life. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "Female Friendships Are the Best, Until They Aren't," 20 June 2019 Spying the main chance, an adventurer named Jivan—the prodigal son of one of Devraj’s closest advisers—wiles his way into power by playing on the affections of Sita’s sisters. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: Summits, Abysses and the Nowheres in Between," 23 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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, "The Evangelical Fight to Win Back California," 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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Statistics for prodigal

Last Updated

28 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prodigal

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

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More Definitions for prodigal



English Language Learners Definition of prodigal

formal : 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on prodigal

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prodigal

Spanish Central: Translation of prodigal

Nglish: Translation of prodigal for Spanish Speakers

Comments on prodigal

What made you want to look up prodigal? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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