AskDefine | Define profligacy

Dictionary Definition



1 the trait of spending extravagantly [syn: extravagance, prodigality]
2 dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasure [syn: dissipation, dissolution, licentiousness]

User Contributed Dictionary



profligate + -y


(US) /ˈprɑflɪgəsi/


  1. careless wastefulness
    • 1791, Thomas Paine, The Rights Of Man
      No question has arisen within the records of history that pressed with the importance of the present. ... whether man shall inherit his rights, and universal civilisation take place? Whether the fruits of his labours shall be enjoyed by himself or consumed by the profligacy of governments?
  2. shameless and immoral behaviour
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
      He had, indeed, reduced several women to a state of utter profligacy, had broke the hearts of some, and had the honour of occasioning the violent death of one poor girl, who had either drowned herself, or, what was rather more probable, had been drowned by him.

Extensive Definition

A spendthrift (also called profligate) is someone who spends money prodigiously and who is extravagant and recklessly wasteful. The origin of the word is someone who is able to spend money acquired by the thrift of predecessors or ancestors.
Historical examples of spendthrifts include George IV, Ludwig II, and Marie Antoinette. The term is often applied sarcastically in the press as an adjective to governments who are thought to be wasting public money. William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress displays in graphical form the downwardly spiraling fortunes of a wealthy but spendthrift son and heir who loses his money, and who as a consequence is imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and ultimately Bedlam.

Legal issues

see also Spendthrift trust The modern legal remedy for spendthrifts is usually bankruptcy. However, during the 19th and 20th centuries, a few jurisdictions, such as the U.S. state of Oregon, experimented with laws under which the family of such a person could have him legally declared a "spendthrift" by a court of law. In turn, such persons were considered to lack the legal capacity to enter into binding contracts. Even though such laws made life harder for creditors (who now had the burden of ensuring that any prospective debtor had not been judicially declared a spendthrift), they were thought to be justified by the public policy of keeping a spendthrift's family from ending up in the poorhouse or on welfare.
Such laws have since been abolished in favor of modern bankruptcy, which is more favorable to creditors.


Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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