Definition of niggardly in English:



  • 1Ungenerous with money, time, etc.; mean.

    ‘he accused the Government of being unbelievably niggardly’
    • ‘The wife of a niggardly merchant asks the loan of a hundred francs from a priest to buy finery.’
    • ‘Many of those who tend to be greedy, envious, and niggardly anyway fall prey to sin.’
    • ‘Brankin has promised financial backing from the Scottish Executive, but the private sector in Scotland has traditionally been niggardly in its support of major golfing events.’
    • ‘For some odd reason many of our guys seem to be just downright niggardly!’
    • ‘As long as I had known him he was, for reasons of pure miserliness, dishonest as an officer, often niggardly in a dirty way, and he owes even today the cash he borrowed from many privates.’
    • ‘For she is not niggardly, like the smith who fashions the Delphian knife for many uses; she makes each thing for a single use, and every instrument is best made when intended for one and not for many uses.’
    • ‘A movement to expand Medicare from a niggardly program that only barely covers the medical care of the elderly to a full-fledged national healthcare program that covers everyone may also be in the cards.’
    • ‘Given his prolific output and consistent proficiency, it is testimony to the niggardly artistic heart of the big publishing houses that there hasn't even been a Selected - leave alone a Collected - volume of his poems.’
    • ‘A part of us was with him, a part of us resented our teacher's niggardly preoccupation with formal integrity, and we longed for liberation.’
    • ‘In addition to the film's unevenness as mentioned above, I have to report MGM's usual niggardly approach to supplements.’
    • ‘He also says that, since the publishers have been so niggardly with the advance, they have been generous with their punctuation, adding lots of commas and a few hyphens.’
    • ‘Having spent so much time on the concerto to slight the sonata may seem niggardly but I must confess that I really don't appreciate the piece enough to discuss this recording.’
    • ‘The provincial government is being niggardly about money.’
    • ‘He was not like most other celebrities who are often niggardly in recognising new talent.’
    • ‘Nor was the Company niggardly in its allocation of funds for carrying out such surveys.’
    • ‘I remain lukewarm in my ‘praise’ for this change whilst the Conservative Party continues to be so niggardly in its support for the rights of the individual in his/her dealings with the State.’
    • ‘It is niggardly in the extreme, however, to refuse to acknowledge what has happened in this land thus far.’
    • ‘Now that it's revealed, it seems niggardly and banal - and it calls into question the entire notion of free will and predestination.’
    • ‘He had a broad and generous, rather than a cramped and niggardly, view of the law and its functions.’
    mean, miserly, parsimonious, close-fisted, penny-pinching, cheese-paring, penurious, grasping, greedy, avaricious, scrooge-like, ungenerous, illiberal, close
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    1. 1.1Meagre and given grudgingly.
      ‘niggardly allowances from the Treasury’
      ‘a niggardly shoestring budget’
      • ‘If the fee which Germanicus offers is niggardly, which I doubt, then I shall see you are paid what you are worth.’
      • ‘The American contribution has been niggardly to the last.’
      • ‘His readers, on the other hand, certainly read books, but his scraps of praise ‘were so niggardly to the writers he scrutinised that he was held by some to be an equally ineffective medium’.’
      • ‘The high level of vacillation in English policy during the famine years, however, and the existence of even niggardly efforts at relief, are inconsistent with a prior intent to exterminate and a systematic pursuit of that goal.’
      • ‘We may very well find that we are contributing, through this niggardly, miserly provision, to further examples of leaky buildings.’
      • ‘This contrasts so markedly with the niggardly travel concessions in this city and the miserable potential offer for the possible future by the miserly Chancellor of the Exchequer.’
      • ‘Long-awaited plans for upgrading them are niggardly and short-sighted.’
      • ‘He must dodge the efforts of Danforth, representing the board of the co-op, from evicting him with a niggardly severance pay.’
      • ‘Faced by those constraints, the soldiers of the Royal Anglians face an uphill task and the official three-year time limit is already looking decidedly niggardly.’
      • ‘To make matters worse, the so-called Group of Ten, which includes Switzerland, Japan and Taiwan, made an even more niggardly counter-offer.’
      • ‘The freedom he afforded his people was great… but couple it with the niggardly compensation, and you couldn't get anyone good to work for you for very long today.’
      • ‘Despite the operational success of the high-quality Australian personnel, that contribution was niggardly and certainly not reflective of the public relations balderdash that accompanied it.’
      • ‘Given the accelerating pace of cultural change in this last period this seems a niggardly apportionment.’
      • ‘Afterwards, the compensation and recognition we provided were niggardly.’
      meagre, inadequate, scanty, scant, paltry, limited, restricted, modest, insufficient, sparse, spare, deficient, negligible, insubstantial, skimpy, short, little, lean, small, slight, slender, poor, miserable, pitiful, puny
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  • In a mean or meagre manner.

    • ‘So, while I saw the guests sipping niggardly the punch in their short glasses, I helped myself to a decanter.’


The word niggardly has no connection with the highly offensive term nigger, but because of the similarity of sound and its negative meaning of ‘mean, ungenerous’ many people are uncomfortable with using it for fear of causing offence, and in the US it is now widely avoided


Mid 16th century: from niggard + -ly.