Printable Version
Pronunciation: ni-gêrd-li Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Adverb

Meaning: Stingy, meanly parsimonious, very tightfisted.

Notes: Today's Good Word—and it is a good word—is also a good example of the power of words. The pejorative connotation of the N-word, as we like to call it now in the US, is so great that it spreads to words that even sound similar. (For a discussions of reprimands and firings that have resulted from the use of today's Good Word, click here.) This adjective is based on the noun, niggard "a tightwad". It may be used as an adverb with no change or as a noun, niggardliness. There is nothing wrong in the use of any of these forms.

In Play: If you have trouble convincing your parents that they should raise your allowance, you might try this: "Hey, pop, how am I supposed to get along on such a niggardly allowance?" We can't guarantee your dad's reaction; only that it will garner you his undivided attention. We shouldn't be afraid to use this word in statements like this: "The niggardly raises and bonuses at this company make Ebenezer Scrooge look like a prime candidate for president!"

Word History: The root of today's Good Word, niggard, came from an Old English word nig "miser" which rather naturally picked up the pejorative suffix -ard, also found in drunkard, coward, stinkard. The root itself was probably brought over by the Vikings as a word related to Norwegian nøgg, Swedish njugg, and archaic Danish nygger—all adjectives meaning "parsimonious, stingy". The suffix -ly on today's adjective often marks adverbs. When added to a noun referring to a kind of person, however, it functions as an adjective suffix: friendly, womanly, manly. (Let us not be niggardly in our thanks to Jan Arps for having the courage to suggest today's unfairly besmirched Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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