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

Adjective 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 Noun "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 Donald Glover and Beyoncé voiced the Lion King principals, but their casting felt more boastful than necessary, a sign of profligate spending more than box-office strategy. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "As 2019 Draws to a Close, Does the Movie Star Still Have a Pulse?," 11 Dec. 2019 The profligate Lacoste and Moet suites are now the stuff of legend, but those in the know still covet an invitation from Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co. and Emirates. Horacio Silva, Town & Country, "The 2019 U.S. Open: A Quick Guide to Everything You Need to Know," 27 Aug. 2019 Her profligate spending continued through the late 2000s, at the same as the country's economy went into free fall. Farai Sevenzo And Tara John, CNN, "What happens to 'Gucci Grace' now that Robert Mugabe is gone?," 6 Sep. 2019 From high-end New York real estate, to fine art, to now, classic cars, the ultra-wealthy have curbed their profligate spending in a big way this year, sending asset prices tumbling across the board. Fortune, "Letter From Pebble Beach: What a Disappointing Classic Car Auction Tells us About the 1%—and the Economy," 24 Aug. 2019 But however lavish its donations, the company is equally profligate in its spending on lobbying to block unhelpful legislation on tar sands, power plants, or renewable energy initiatives. Natasha Frost, Quartz, "Charities are trapped into taking tainted money from corporations," 20 July 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The losers among us are basement-dwellers; the cool ones are profligates who refuse to contemplate the future. Molly Roberts, The Denver Post, "Molly Roberts: OK, boomer. The kids are fighting back.," 7 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for profligate

Time Traveler

The first known use of profligate was in 1617

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Last Updated

20 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Profligate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 29 January 2020.

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More Definitions for profligate


How to pronounce profligate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of profligate

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

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Comments on profligate

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


to assert without proof or before proving

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