from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Poverty-stricken; destitute.
  • adjective Unwilling to spend money; stingy.
  • adjective Scanty or meager.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Pertaining to or characterized by penury or want; stricken with poverty; indigent.
  • Niggard; scanty; not bountiful or liberal.
  • Excessively saving or sparing in the use of money; parsimonious to a fault; sordid: as, a penurious man.
  • Nice and dainty.
  • Synonyms Parsimonious, Penurious, Miserly, Close, Niggardly, Stingy, Mean, covetous, avaricious, illiberal, sordid, chary. The first seven words express the spirit or conduct of those who are slow to part with money or other valuable things. Parsimonious is perhaps the most general of these words, literally sparing to spend, but always careful and excessively sparing. Penurious means literally in penury, but always feeling and acting as though one were in poverty, saving beyond reason; the word is rather stronger than parsimonious, and has perhaps rather more reference to the treatment of others. One may be parsimonious or penurious, through habits formed in times of having little, without being really miserly. Miserly, feeling and acting like a miser, is generally applied to one who, having some wealth, clings to it for fear of poverty, or in provision for some possible exigency of the future, or especially for its own sake, as delighting in the mere possession of wealth. Close has the vigor of figurative use; it may be a shortening of close-fisted. Niggardly is the least limited to money, and has the most to do with others; it expresses a meanly parsimonious treatment of others, a neglectful, self-defeating, or stingy saving. Stingy expresses the most of opprobrium: as, Queen Elizabeth was called frugal by her friends, stingy by her enemies, and parsimonious by the rest of the world. It indicates a grudging, narrow-hearted or unreasonable parsimony in giving or providing. Mean shows a tendency toward emphasizing the idea of a close or narrow and mean-spirited handling of money. See avarice.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Excessively sparing in the use of money; sordid; stingy; miserly.
  • adjective Not bountiful or liberal; scanty.
  • adjective obsolete Destitute of money; suffering extreme want.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Miserly; excessively cheap.
  • adjective Not bountiful; thin; scant.
  • adjective Impoverished; wanting for money.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective not having enough money to pay for necessities
  • adjective excessively unwilling to spend


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Medieval Latin pēnūriōsus, from Latin pēnūria, want.]


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  • At the risk of being called penurious, I confess that I was immensely relieved when I learned that these precious jewels in the shape of fruit had been paid for in advance by the opulent mother of the Countess.

    A Fool and His Money George Barr McCutcheon 1897

  • Some of my readers may think so small a loss scarcely worth keeping awake for, but Mrs. Joe Tucker was a strictly economical and saving woman -- some even called her penurious -- and the loss of ten cents troubled her.

    The Young Musician ; Or, Fighting His Way Horatio Alger 1865

  • a kind of penurious god, very niggardly of his opportunities: he must be watched like a hard-hearted treasurer; for he bolts out on the sudden, and, if you take him not in the nick, he vanishes in a twinkling.

    The works of John Dryden, $c now first collected in eighteen volumes. $p Volume 06 John Dryden 1665

  • Fracking divides neighbor from neighbor, roughly speaking the penurious locals from the weekend residents and gentleman farmers.

    Americans (Sort of) Fracking Jr. Holman W. Jenkins 2010

  • Having resolved to give the working class what it wanted, he was not penurious about it.

    Running A Newspaper 2010

  • The overall budget deal is far from penurious, increasing spending for fiscal 2010-11 to $125.2 billion from $119.2 billion, though general fund expenditures remain flat.

    Arnold 2010

  • Still reigning are old-fashioned ideas of solvency and personal pride, and a pragmatic way of dealing with money born of decades of penurious scarcity.

    How Moldova Escaped the Crisis 2009

  • Three years from now, Saint Sarah the Dimwitted will be loathe to give up her presumably large contract at the ‘all lies, all the time’ network for something as mundane and penurious as public office.

    Think Progress » Sarah Palin admits to questioning whether Saddam was behind 9/11. 2010

  • Still reigning are old-fashioned ideas of solvency and personal pride, and a pragmatic way of dealing with money born of decades of penurious scarcity.

    How Moldova Escaped the Crisis 2009

  • When I started my tasting, I have to admit I wasn't thinking much about the lost Muscadet vineyards, the penurious growers or their stunted price growth.

    Cheap but Charming: Dipping Into Muscadet Lettie Teague 2011


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  • “The cold winter wind seemed to carry with it a steaming, fetid wind from Green, as a frigid old man, penurious and hoary with age, might bear in his arms the rotten corpse of a beautiful young woman.”

    —Gene Wolfe, In Green’s Jungles

    February 26, 2010