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From Middle English nigard, nygard (miser), from nig (niggardly person), possibly of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse hnǫggr (miserly, stingy). Possibly cognate to niggle (miser).[1] Compare German Knicker (niggard), knickerig (niggardly). Not related to nigger.



niggard (comparative more niggard, superlative most niggard)

  1. Sparing; stinting; parsimonious.
  2. Miserly or stingy.
    • 1755, Tobias Smollett, The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, translated from the original Spanish of Cervantes, Volume II, Chapter III:
      It was, however, the pleasure of his niggard and unhappy fortune, that in seeking a place proper for his accommodation, he and Dapple tumbled into a deep and very dark pit, among a number of old buildings.
    • 1852, William and Robert Chambers, Chambers' Edinburgh Journal:
      [H]is heart swelled within him, as he sat at the head of his own table, on the occasion of the house-warming, dispensing with no niggard hand the gratuitous viands and unlimited beer, which were at once to symbolise and inaugurate the hospitality of his mansion.


niggard (plural niggards)

  1. A miser or stingy person; a skinflint.
    • 1609, William Shakespeare, Sonnet 4:
      Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
      The bounteous largess given thee to give?
    • 1618, John Taylor, The Pennyles Pilgrimage OR The Money-lesse Perambulation of John Taylor:
      All his pleasures were social; and while health and fortune smiled upon him, he was no niggard either of his time or talents to those who needed them.
    • 1955, J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6 "Many Partings":
      ‘No niggard are you, Éomer,’ said Aragorn, ‘to give thus to Gondor the fairest thing in your realm!’
  2. A false bottom in a grate, used for saving fuel.
    • Edward Bulwer Lytton, Godolphin
      It was evening: he ordered a fire and lights; and, leaning his face on his hand as he contemplated the fitful and dusky upbreakings of the flame through the bars of the niggard and contracted grate []
    • From a catalog of the Great Exhibition of 1851:
      Cooking apparatus, adapted for an opening eight feet wide, by five feet high, and containing an open-fire roasting range, with sliding spit-racks and winding cheek or niggard;
    • (Can we date this quote?), Thomas Carlyle, Jane Welsh Carlyle, Lady Gertrude Hoffmann Bliss, Thomas Carlyle: Letters to His Wife, published 1953, page 100:
      Neither this nor the Brompton house have a kitchen-range (that is, Grate like the Miles's), but only a grate with moveable niggards etc.
    • 1979, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, volume 109, Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, page 15:
      A niggard was a movable side to the kitchen grate which could be wound up with a handle so as to make the fire []



niggard (third-person singular simple present niggards, present participle niggarding, simple past and past participle niggarded)

  1. (intransitive) To hoard; to act stingily.

Usage notesEdit

  • This word is unrelated to the racial slur nigger (a corruption of the Spanish word negro (black)), but some in the United States have taken offense at the word's use due to the phonetic similarity between the words.


Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit