A miser, cheapskate, snipe-snout, penny pincher, piker, scrooge, skinflint or tightwad is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts and some necessities. Old people were commonly portrayed as being miserly but this stereotype is less common since support programs such as Social Security have resulted in less poverty in old age.[1]

Freud attributed the development of miserly behaviour to toilet training in childhood. Some infants would attempt to retain the contents of their bowels and this would result in the development of an anal retentive personality that would attempt to retain their wealth and possessions in later life.[2]

In traditional Chinese Confucianism, those who were concerned with money – landlords and merchants – were thought to be a low order of society, inferior to the peasant farmers who tilled the soil. They were condemned in allegory as misers and officials would punish such behaviour in times of famine.[3]

There are numerous folk sayings about miserly people such as the Cockney, "E's so tight 'is arse squeaks" and the Yorkshire, "He's a snipe-snout; he'll part wi' nowght."[4]


Famous misers in history

  • Hetty Green of New York City was considered the world's wealthiest woman in 1916, and was known as the "Witch of Wall Street".
  • Joseph Nollekens was a Londoner generally considered to be the finest British sculptor of the late 18th century, but was also a notorious miser.
  • Michelangelo made a fortune from his painting but denied himself all comforts and slept with his boots on.[7]
  • Yossele the Holy Miser, a Polish Jew, is a famous miser of Jewish folklore.

Misers in fiction

Ebenezer Scrooge encounters Ignorance and Want in A Christmas Carol

As a general example, in Dante Alighieri's Inferno, misers are put in the fourth circle of hell, along with spendthrifts. They roll weights representing their wealth, constantly colliding and quarreling.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Herbert C. Covey, "Old Age and Historical Examples of the Miser", The Gerontologist 31 (5): 673–678, http://gerontologist.oxfordjournals.org/content/31/5/673.abstract 
  2. ^ Nicky Hayes (2000), Foundations of psychology, Cengage Learning, http://books.google.com/books?id=2m1UQI4QpVsC&pg=PT232 
  3. ^ Keith McMahon (1995), Misers, shrews, and polygamists, Duke University Press, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=B6k9eEpDJBAC&pg=PA5 
  4. ^ J.B.Smith (1984), "Of Skinflints and Pinch-Farthings", Folklore 95 (ii): 177+, http://www.jstor.org/pss/1260202 
  5. ^ Scott Gillam, Andrew Carnegie, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EdvvAMBILJQC&pg=PA71 
  6. ^ Gordon Mackenzie (1972), Marylebone: great city north of Oxford Street, Macmillan, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=pPUgAAAAMAAJ 
  7. ^ Bruce Johnston (30 Nov 2002), "Michelangelo is branded a 'multi-millionaire' miser", The Daily Telegraph (London), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/1414836/Michelangelo-is-branded-a-multi-millionaire-miser.html 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j John Mullan (7 March 2009), Ten of the best misers, London: The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/07/ten-best-literary-misers 
  9. ^ Adler, Ben (4 August 2007). "The Simpsons sell out". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/aug/04/thesimpsonssellout. Retrieved 9 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Lantz, K. A. (2004). The Dostoevsky encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 118. ISBN 0313303843. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=XfDOcmJisn0C&pg=PA118. 
  11. ^ Jennifer Doane Upton, Dark Way to Paradise, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RnhlOrCgf-UC&pg=PA40 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • miser — [ mize ] v. tr. <conjug. : 1> • 1669; de mise 1 ♦ Déposer, mettre (un enjeu). ⇒ blinder, 2. caver, jouer, parier, 2. ponter. Miser dix francs. Miser tout sur le rouge, à la roulette. 2 ♦ Absolt Miser sur un cheval, aux courses. Fig. Miser… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • miser — (n.) 1540s, miserable person, wretch, from L. miser (adj.) unhappy, wretched, pitiable, in distress, of unknown origin. Original sense now obsolete; main modern meaning of money hoarding person recorded 1560s, from presumed unhappiness of such… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Miser — Mi ser (m[imac] z[ e]r), n. [L. miser wretched, miserable; cf. Gr. mi^sos hate, misei^n to hate: cf. It. & Sp. misero wretched, avaricious.] [1913 Webster] 1. A wretched person; a person afflicted by any great misfortune. [Obs.] Spenser. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • miser — mi‧ser [ˈmaɪzə ǁ ər] noun [countable] a person, organization, country etc that hates spending money: • This country is a miser when it comes to research and development spending in engineering. miserly adjective : • Teachers complain they already …   Financial and business terms

  • miser — [n] person who hoards money, possessions cheapskate*, churl, harpy*, hoarder, moneygrubber*, penny pincher*, pinchfist*, pinchpenny*, Scrooge*, stiff*, tightwad*; concepts 348,412,423 Ant. spender, spendthrift, waster, wastrel …   New thesaurus

  • miser — ► NOUN ▪ a person who hoards wealth and spends as little as possible. ORIGIN from Latin, wretched …   English terms dictionary

  • miser — [mī′zər] n. [L, wretched, unhappy, ill, worthless] 1. a greedy, stingy person who hoards money for its own sake, even at the expense of personal comfort 2. Obs. a miserable person; wretch …   English World dictionary

  • MISER — v. tr. Faire une mise, mettre un enjeu. Miser cent francs. Il s’emploie aussi intransitivement. Sur quoi avez vous misé? En termes de Jeu, Miser sur les deux tableaux, Mettre un enjeu sur les deux tableaux. Il se dit surtout au figuré pour… …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 8eme edition (1935)

  • miser — (mi zé) v. n. Terme qui se dit dans quelques provinces pour enchérir. Ne misez pas sur moi. ÉTYMOLOGIE    Mise. SUPPLÉMENT AU DICTIONNAIRE MISER. Ajoutez : 2°   Mettre au jeu, faire une mise.    Fig. Faire fond. •   L Italie a gagné l enjeu sur… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • miser — [[t]ma͟ɪzə(r)[/t]] misers N COUNT (disapproval) If you say that someone is a miser, you disapprove of them because they seem to hate spending money, and to spend as little as possible. I m married to a miser. Syn: skinflint …   English dictionary

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