prof·​li·​gate | \ ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio) , -ˌgāt\

Definition of profligate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : wildly extravagant profligate spending
2 : completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness : shamelessly immoral leading a profligate life


prof·​li·​gate | \ ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio) , -ˌgāt\

Definition of profligate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person given to wildly extravagant and usually grossly self-indulgent expenditure

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Other Words from profligate


profligately adverb

Don't Get Overwhelmed by the History of Profligate


When a royal record keeper reported the "profligation of the knights" almost five centuries ago, he didn't mean the knights were wildly indulging in excesses; he meant they were thoroughly defeated in battle. There's nothing etymologically extreme there; the Latin verb profligare, which is the root of both profligate and the much rarer profligation (meaning "ruin"), means "to strike down," "to destroy," or "to overwhelm." When the adjective profligate first appeared in print in English it meant "overthrown" or "overwhelmed," (a sense that is now obsolete) but over time the word's meaning shifted to "immoral" or "wildly extravagant."

Examples of profligate in a Sentence


In a curious way, part of the genius of America has been a collective forgetfulness, a talent for somehow outdistancing problems in a headlong race toward something new. It is a form of heedlessness, perhaps, blithe and profligate, but also an exuberant forward spin that may spare people the exhausting obligations of revenge. — Lance Morrow, Time, 4 Apr. 1988 Sure, the trade deficit symbolizes a profligate America, consuming more than it produces and spending more than it has. — Philip Revzin, Wall Street Journal, 17 Mar. 17, 1988 Everyone seemed fond of statistics, but the counterterrorism experts were especially profligate with numbers. — Kurt Andersen, Time, 24 June 1985 She was very profligate in her spending. profligate movie producers hoping to create the next blockbuster


"Why did you ask that scoundrel, Rawdon Crawley, to dine?" said the Rector to his lady, as they were walking home through the park. "I don't want the fellow. He looks down upon us country people as so many blackamoors.  … Besides, he's such an infernal character—he's a gambler—he's a drunkard—he's a profligate in every way." — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848 a profligate who could not really afford the grand style he maintained at Monticello, Jefferson died deeply in debt a drunken profligate, he was given to wretched excess in every aspect of his life
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

This is not to say Mr. McLean’s clients are profligate. Devin Gordon, New York Times, "Meet the Money Whisperer to the Super-Rich N.B.A. Elite," 6 June 2019 The willingness to be more profligate when using digital money isn’t only about buying on credit. Town & Country, "Is This the End of Cash?," 28 Jan. 2019 Creditors fear that Greece could return to its profligate ways, especially as 2019 is an election year. Nektaria Stamouli, WSJ, "Final Greek Bailout Talks Kick Off," 27 Apr. 2018 While previous debt crises involved U.S. households and, later, profligate European governments such as Greece, this time the concern centers on companies in emerging markets that borrowed heavily in dollars and euros. David J. Lynch, The Seattle Times, "Global debt soars, along with fears of crisis ahead," 4 Sep. 2018 Right now, companies are cautious after a period of profligate spending before the 2014 crash led to years of painful restructuring. Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, "As Oil Industry Recovers From a Glut, a Supply Crunch Might Be Looming," 28 July 2018 The climate crises humanity is producing due to our profligate burning of fossil fuels is happening in the face of mounting evidence that said burning was very, very bad for the Earth. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "A roadmap to agriculture that’s sustainable and climate-neutral," 15 Oct. 2018 In February 2018 — when the Rob Porter scandal brought public attention to the White House’s profligate abuse of interim security clearances — Kushner still hadn’t secured the bureau’s seal of approval. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "The CIA Still Doesn’t Trust Jared Kushner With Its Most Sensitive Intelligence," 13 July 2018 Further, profligate lending can worsen relations with other countries rather than help them. Keith Bradsher, New York Times, "China Taps the Brakes on Its Global Push for Influence," 29 June 2018

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


1617, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1709, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for profligate

Adjective and Noun

Latin profligatus, from past participle of profligare to strike down, from pro- forward, down + -fligare (akin to fligere to strike); akin to Greek phlibein to squeeze

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Statistics for profligate

Last Updated

21 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for profligate

The first known use of profligate was in 1617

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More Definitions for profligate



English Language Learners Definition of profligate

formal : carelessly and foolishly wasting money, materials, etc. : very wasteful

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