Printable Version
Pronunciation: pahr-sê-mo-nee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Frugality, husbandry, economy, the judicious, even sparing use of resources. 2. Tight-fisted stinginess.

Notes: The adjective of this Good Word is parsimonious [pahr-s-mo-ni-s] and the adverb, parsimoniously. A penurious person is usually stingy because of poverty. A parsimonious person is simply judicious in spending habits. The Law of Parsimony, on the other hand, also known as Occam's Razor, is a preference for the simplest explanation of the largest array of facts. Occam's Razor cuts off the superfluous. In short: it is best to explain the most you can with the fewest words—it's the law!

In Play: Today's Good Word reflects an attitude that often goes out the window. Edmund Burke once wrote, "Mere parsimony is not economy.... Expense, and great expense, may be an essential part in true economy." In other words, keep an eye on the long term. It is the case that today's word is not ineluctably wedded to finances: "Mom, don't be so parsimonious with the mashed potatoes; I'm a growing boy!"

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French, which got it from Latin parsimonia "parsimony". The Latin noun is built on parsus, the past participle of parcere "to be sparing". The root is probably related to the Greek word sparnos "rare, uncommon" and English spare. It is also tied to Latin parvus "small" and paucus "few." (We should not be parsimonious with our gratitude to Katy Brezger for suggesting today's very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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