Confusing words: spendthrift

This one I used wrongly for the longest time and it still gives me pause every time I use it (which isn’t very often, because I still am afraid I will get it wrong: spendthrift.

Marie Antoinette - the archetypical spendthrift, pic:

When I first heard the word I thought: easy – spend like in spending money, thrifty as in being careful about how much you spend on what – so a spendthrift person is someone who spends their money wisely and carefully.

Wrong!  A spendthrift is the exact opposite – a person who spends money extravagantly, recklessly and wastefully.   Or, to use another not so common word spendthrift means profligate.  Go figure!

I didn’t find any very convincing explanations for why this word means to opposite of what it should mean.  Wiki might have done it best by saying that a spendthrift is a person who is able to recklessly spend money that was acquired by the thrift of others.

I guess, this is just one of those words one has to memorize and not rely on intuition.



One Comment to “Confusing words: spendthrift”

  1. So glad to come across your explanation for ‘spendthrift”. I’ve always been confused about the interpretation that I was hearing. In my day English when was taught, we were expected to be able to write compositions utilizing the vocabulary that we learned. Sad to say, nowadays, people don’t express themselves in complete sentences or replies that mean much. Thanks again for the clarification. Knowing that this site exists, I may contact you with other ‘questionable’ words or phrases.

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