Printable Version
Pronunciation: prahf-lê-gêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. Shamelessly immoral, dissolute, licentious. 2. Recklessly wasteful, wildly extravagant, overspending uncontrollably.

Notes: Profligate comes to us from an old verb to profligate, which meant "to overcome, overwhelm", a meaning closely related to the original Latin (see Word History). The noun profligation was associated with this verb. The noun for today's adjective is profligacy and the adverb, profligately. The adjective itself may be used as a noun referring to an immoral person: "The old profligate had rather foreclose a mortgage than eat ice cream."

In Play: Both meanings of this Good Word are still current. If immoral doesn't go quite far enough, try something like this: "Fairley Luce bought a yacht with his lottery winnings and quickly became a profligate beach bum everyone but the police avoided." Now, if extravagant doesn't quite describe a spendthrift you know, this might be more appropriate: "Penny Wise surprised everyone with a positively profligate million-dollar wedding for her daughter, who then had to go to work to make ends meet."

Word History: This Good Word comes from Latin profligatus, the past participle of profligare "knock down, overthrow, ruin", made up of pro "forward" + fligere, "to strike down". Relatives of pro are ubiquitous throughout Indo-European languages. In English it emerged as or in for, from, front and in Greek as peri "around", found in our word periscope. In Russian it is a prefix, pere- "over, again" found in the word perestroika "rebuilding, building again". The Old Persian language, Avestan, had a word pairidaeza "a wall around a garden or orchard" from pairi "around" + daeza "wall". The Greeks were so impressed with the Persian orchards inside them that they borrowed the word to refer to luxurious gardens then passed it on to us as paradise.

Dr. Goodword,

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