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

Part of Speech: Adjective, Adverb

Meaning: Stingy, meanly parsimonious, very tight-fisted.

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 the 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 tight-wad". 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 early modern 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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