fru·​gal ˈfrü-gəl How to pronounce frugal (audio)
: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources
frugally adverb

Did you know?

Frugal Has Surprising Roots

Those who are frugal are unwilling to (lavishly) enjoy the fruits of their labors, so it may surprise you to learn that frugal ultimately derives from the Latin frux, meaning "fruit" or "value," and is even a distant cousin of the Latin word for "enjoy" (frui). The connection between fruit or value and restraint was first made in Latin; the Middle French word that English speakers eventually adopted as frugal came from the Latin adjective frugalis, a frux descendant meaning "virtuous" or "frugal." Although English speakers adopted frugal by the 16th century, they were already lavishly supplied with earlier coinages to denote the idea, including sparing and thrifty.

Choose the Right Synonym for frugal

sparing, frugal, thrifty, economical mean careful in the use of one's money or resources.

sparing stresses abstention and restraint.

sparing in the offering of advice

frugal implies absence of luxury and simplicity of lifestyle.

ran a frugal household

thrifty stresses good management and industry.

thrifty use of nonrenewable resources

economical stresses prudent management, lack of wastefulness, and use of things to their best advantage.

an economical health-care plan

Example Sentences

His meals are the frugal fare of the poor: tea, bread, yogurt, a bit of cheese, vegetables. Johanna McGeary, Time, 25 Oct. 2004
Like frugal cooks everywhere, Cajun cooks from generations past found plenty of ways to use every part of the animals they raised. Jeremy Sauer, Cook's Country, June 1995
In a frugal white frame house of tiny rooms that shook with every passing freight train, five boys of German immigrant background had grown up at the turn of the twentieth century. Robert D. Kaplan, An Empire Wilderness, 1988
a frugal meal of bread and cheese by being frugal, the family is able to stretch its monthly budget
Recent Examples on the Web That frugal operation is boosted by a 924-volt architecture (versus 400 volts for Tesla, and 800 for Porsche's Taycan) whose benefits include restoring up to 300 miles of range in 20 minutes on a 350-kilowatt DC fast charger. IEEE Spectrum, 7 Mar. 2023 Notes from Warren Buffett’s annual letter Beyond lauding Berkshire Hathaway investors’ frugal attitudes and willingness to give to charity, Buffett’s latest shareholder letter contained some fascinating tidbits about markets and the economy. Will Daniel, Fortune, 28 Feb. 2023 The factors driving this layoff cycle include investor pressure and the drying up of traditional TV revenue thanks to cord-cutters and frugal advertisers. Los Angeles Times, 15 Feb. 2023 Add to that its good driving dynamics and efficient engine and the Versa is a handsome, frugal, and solidly capable daily commuter vehicle. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, 4 Feb. 2023 With the best years ahead for Chase and Higgins, the famously frugal Bengals could have some hard choices. Mitch Stacy, ajc, 28 Jan. 2023 More frugal consumers would threaten to send the economy into a recession. Christopher Rugaber, Anchorage Daily News, 27 Jan. 2023 More frugal consumers would threaten to send the economy into a recession. Christopher Rugaber, Fortune, 27 Jan. 2023 Favorable severance agreements offer one month's worth of salary for every year of tenure with the company; while more frugal packages provide just one week's worth of salary for each year, experts said. Max Zahn, ABC News, 26 Jan. 2023 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'frugal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin frugalis virtuous, frugal, from frug-, frux fruit, value; akin to Latin frui to enjoy

First Known Use

1542, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of frugal was in 1542


Dictionary Entries Near frugal

Cite this Entry

“Frugal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


fru·​gal ˈfrü-gəl How to pronounce frugal (audio)
: careful in spending or using resources
frugality noun
frugally adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on frugal

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