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An illustration by Harold Nelson of the Devil in the form of an elderly miser and a spendthrift gentleman who had used up his whole inheritance, from The Famous Historie of Fryer Bacon (1904)[1]

spend +‎ thrift ((archaic) gain; prosperity).



spendthrift (comparative more spendthrift, superlative most spendthrift)

  1. Improvident, profligate, or wasteful. [from late 16th c.]
    • 1621, attributed to Thomas Heywood or John Cooke, A Pleasant Conceited Comedy, wherein is Shewed, how a Man may Choose a Good Wife from a Bad. As It hath been Sundry Times Acted by the Earle of Worcesters Seruants[1], London: Printed [by Thomas Purfoot] for Mathew Law, and are to be sold at his shop in Paules church yard, neere vnto S. Augustines gate, at the signe of the Foxe, OCLC 222276310:
      Wel, go to wild oats, ſpend thrift prodigal, / Ile croſſe thy name quight from my reckning booke: / For theſe accounts, faith it ſhall ſcath thee ſome what, / I will not ſay what, ſomewhat it ſhall be.
    • 1817 December, [Jane Austen], chapter XII, in Persuasion; published in Northanger Abbey: And Persuasion. [...] With a Biographical Notice of the Author. In Four Volumes, volume IV, London: John Murray, [], 1818, OCLC 318384910, page 299:
      He was now esteemed quite worthy to address the daughter of a foolish, spendthrift baronet, who had not had principle or sense enough to maintain himself in the situation in which Providence had placed him, and who could give his daughter at present but a small part of the share of ten thousand pounds which must be hers hereafter.
    • 1831, [George Payne Rainsford James], chapter II, in Philip Augustus; or, The Brothers in Arms. [...] In Three Volumes, volume III, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, OCLC 1626396, page 33:
      Powerful feelings and generous designs are, alas! too like the inheritance of a miser in the hands of some spendthrift heir—lavished away on trifles in our early years, and needed, but not posessed, in our riper age.
    • 2009, Grant Hayter-Menzies, “Preface”, in Mrs. Ziegfield: The Public and Private Lives of Billie Burke, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, →ISBN, page 3:
      Billie Burke's career and life often twined together in this manner – so many of her roles called on her to play parts that were fragments of her real life: the sought-after young stage beauty, the wronged wife, the spendthrift matriarch of bankrupt wealth, the woman too old to be acting so young.
  2. Extravagant or lavish.
    • 2004, Ethan Mordden, “The Great Tradition”, in The Happiest Corpse I’ve Ever Seen: The Last Twenty-five Years of the Broadway Musical, New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, →ISBN, page 6:
      A high-powered entertainment that acceded to the spiraling capitalization costs of the big musical with a production of spendthrift command, La Cage [aux Folles] came in at summer's end as a guaranteed hit.
    • 2017 May 13, Barney Ronay, “Antonio Conte’s brilliance has turned Chelsea’s pop-up team into champions”, in The Guardian[2], London, archived from the original on 9 September 2017:
      This feels like a significant league title in more ways than one. It is now 14 years since Roman Abramovich emerged as an spendthrift presence in west London.




spendthrift (plural spendthrifts)

  1. Someone who spends money improvidently or wastefully.
    • c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke: [] (Second Quarto), London: Printed by I[ames] R[oberts] for N[icholas] L[ing] [], published 1604, OCLC 760858814, [Act IV, scene vii]:
      [T]hat we would doe / We ſhould doe when we would: for this would changes, / And hath abatements and delayes as many, / As there are tongues, are hands, are accedents, / And then this ſhould is like a ſpend thrifts ſigh, / That hurts by eaſing; []
    • 1611, Randle Cotgrave, comp., “Prodigue”, in A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongves, London: Printed by Adam Islip, OCLC 491770318, column 1:
      Prodigue, & grand beuveur de vin n'a du ſien ne four, ne moulin: Pro. The drunken ſpendthrift waſts his beſt poſſeſſions.
    • 1999, Warren G. Bovée, “Democratic Promise, Democratic Reality, and the Journalists”, in Discovering Journalism (Contributions to the Study of Mass Media and Communications; no. 56), Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, →ISBN, ISSN 0732-4456, pages 79–80:
      [T]emperate people choose neither total abstinence nor perpetual indulgence, but something in between; liberal people are neither spendthrifts nor misers; the properly angry are neither apathetic nor short-tempered; and the strictly just person distributes to everyone what is his or her due, neither more nor less.



Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ William John Thoms, editor ([1904]), “How Fryer Bacon Saved a Gentleman that had Given Himselfe to the Devill”, in The Famous Historie of Fryer Bacon: Containing the Wonderfull Things that He Did in His Life: Also the Manner of His Death: With the Lives and Deaths of the Two Conjurers Bungye and Vandermast: Very Pleasant and Delightfull to be Read (Early English Prose Romances; III), [Edinburgh], OCLC 223976978, page 51.

Further readingEdit