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Lexical Investigations: Frugal

frugal, piggy bankFrugal is a great word for thrifty people because it glorifies the idea of saving without any of the negative connotations of cheap or miserly. English speakers started using frugal at the turn of the 17th century. While the noun form had already existed in English since the 1530s, the earliest citing of the adjective form is not until Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor about 70 years later.

Though frugal entered English from the Middle French, it ultimately came from the Latin frugalis, meaning “useful,” “proper,” and “economical.” This term, however, stems from frux, which literally means “fruit” and figuratively means “value” or “success.”

It is, at first, odd to think that the word frugal shares its roots with the word fruit, but perhaps there is some logic here. Both frugal and the figurative sense of fruit (something that is valuable) deal with understanding the worth of things. With this knowledge in hand, don’t let anyone bully you for being cheap ever again.

Popular References:
The Frugal Gourmet: the name of the popular PBS cooking show starring Jeff Smith.
Frugalista: a combination of frugal + fashonista, coined in 2005 to describe people who use thrifty means to sustain a stylish lifestyle.

Relevant Quotations:
“[W]e frugal parents would like to get the most bang for our back-to-school buck without busting our budgets.”
–Leah Ingram, Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier & Healthier for Less (2010)

“Even living a frugal lifestyle and saving aggressively may not provide enough savings to allow retirement at the desired age.”
–Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, Richard A. Ferri, Laura F. Dogu, The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning (2010)

Read our previous post about the word motley.

26 Comments

  1. OUEDRAOGO Patindyalogo Brice -  December 20, 2013 - 10:36 am

    so easy to keep in mind! isn’t it?

    Reply
  2. OUEDRAOGO Patindyalogo Brice -  December 20, 2013 - 10:31 am

    GLAD TO LEARN NEW WORDS

    Reply
  3. audrey barber -  September 20, 2013 - 7:17 am

    It use to be that up there at the top you could have spell check and thausoris (sp) check. How do we get that again? Audrey

    Reply
  4. Sri -  September 19, 2013 - 10:39 pm

    I want do thinking my upgrade mind dictionary .

    Reply
  5. Daemynnur -  September 19, 2013 - 12:56 am

    @ Sultan Akhtar Patel

    “frugality = austerity” erm… No.
    they’re similar in some respects, but not the same

    Reply
  6. en jay -  September 18, 2013 - 10:08 pm

    frugal not fruman

    Reply
  7. Happysurfer -  September 18, 2013 - 8:05 pm

    Many people live frugal happy lives. Thanks for this article.

    Reply
  8. Ayan -  September 18, 2013 - 9:44 am

    Being Frugal forever not cheap.Mind It ! ;)

    Reply
  9. bob -  September 18, 2013 - 6:57 am

    hi

    Reply
  10. Joe -  September 17, 2013 - 11:48 pm

    THE FRUGAL LIFE IS THE GOOD LIFE

    Reply
  11. BO -  September 17, 2013 - 11:46 pm

    THIS IS FRUGALISTIA

    Reply
  12. 陈秋华 -  September 17, 2013 - 8:00 pm

    good story about history

    Reply
  13. Sultan Akhtar Patel -  September 17, 2013 - 3:38 am

    frugality = austerity

    Reply
  14. y david -  September 15, 2013 - 6:53 am

    I want some more information to download dictionary to mobile.

    Reply
  15. jacqueline -  September 14, 2013 - 12:55 pm

    all I want to do is look up the correct spelling for a word. What’s all this junk and I still can’t find a place to put the word I want to look up

    Reply
  16. asden -  September 14, 2013 - 12:10 pm

    Is this a post or was it written by a person. (The article
    Lexical Investigations: Frugal, not this post)

    Reply
  17. hoshi -  September 14, 2013 - 9:32 am

    wow it’s nice to know the history and exact meaning of this word. I always use thrifty when I describe myself. so beginning today, I’m frugal lass

    Reply
  18. Alexander -  September 14, 2013 - 9:25 am

    Interesting history of the word.

    Reply
  19. Kat -  September 12, 2013 - 6:32 pm

    Bam!

    Reply
  20. Teto -  September 12, 2013 - 4:20 pm

    I AM A DEPRESSION BABY AND FOOD WAS THE FIRST PRIORITY. ALL ELSE WAS IGNORED. I AM STILL FRUGAL IN MY TIME OF PLENTY, BUT JUST TO BE SAFE, I NEVER WASTE ANYTHING, EVER, NEVER. PEOPLE LAUGH AT ME BUT, “I BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, AIN’T GONNA DO IT NO MORE!” SO HA HA ON THEM/

    Reply
  21. nicole -  September 12, 2013 - 3:11 pm

    hello peeps

    Reply
  22. Ellie -  September 11, 2013 - 9:25 pm

    That is interesting and I’m glad I read it. Someone with whom I used to work with called out an insurance rep as being frugal in the sense that they were negligent and irresponsible. Little did both of them know that she (my then-co-worker) was actually complimenting the insurance rep! :)

    Reply
  23. jrilett -  September 11, 2013 - 8:28 am

    The frugal life is a well lived one.

    Reply
  24. Jasmine -  September 10, 2013 - 10:42 pm

    whoooo! First comment ;)

    Reply
  25. IIYKS -  September 10, 2013 - 7:15 pm

    ceiiyos

    Reply

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