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Earliest uses (late 16th c.) "to spend recklessly or prodigiously", also "to scatter over a wide area". Of unknown origin. Perhaps a blend of scatter +‎ wander.

Compare Danish skvætte (rare)/skvatte (to splash) (nominalised: skvæt), Icelandic skvetta (to squirt), Swedish skvätta (to splash), Norwegian Bokmål skvette.[1]



squander (third-person singular simple present squanders, present participle squandering, simple past and past participle squandered)

  1. To waste, lavish, splurge; to spend lavishly or profusely; to dissipate.
    • 1746, Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac[2]
      Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.
    • (Can we date this quote by George Best and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.[3]
    • 2011 September 24, David Ornstein, “Arsenal 3 - 0 Bolton”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      As the game opened up, Bolton squandered a fine opportunity to equalise - Chris Eagles shooting straight at Szczesny - but then back came Arsenal.
  2. (obsolete) To scatter; to disperse.
    • (Can we date this quote by John Dryden and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      Our squandered troops he rallies.
  3. (obsolete) To wander at random; to scatter.
    • (Can we date this quote by Shakespeare and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      The wise man's folly is anatomized / Even by squandering glances of the fool.

Usage notesEdit

Squander implies starting with many resources, such as great wealth, and then wasting them (using them up to little purpose or little effect), often ending with little. Particularly used in phrases such as “squander an opportunity” or “squander an inheritance”. It may be used even if one starts with little, though usually in some construction such as “squander what little he had”.