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.
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.
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.
Famous misers in history
- Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-born industrialist, was notoriously thrifty and was mocked as a miser but after the Homestead dispute he became a great philanthropist.
- The Collyer brothers of New York City were also hoarders and earned notoriety for living in a filthy, booby-trapped home.
- Ephraim Lópes Pereira d'Aguilar, 2nd Baron d'Aguilar was an eccentric Jewish Portuguese nobleman who lived a life of privation, while amassing a secret fortune.
- Hetty Green of New York City was considered the world's wealthiest woman in 1916, and was known as the "Witch of Wall Street".
- John Elwes (aka "Elwes the Miser"), was a noted British eccentric and miser, believed to be the inspiration for the character of "Ebenezer Scrooge" in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
- 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.
- Yossele the Holy Miser, a Polish Jew, is a famous miser of Jewish folklore.
Misers in fiction
- Albert Arkwright - lead character of BBC's TV show Open All Hours, directed by Sydney Lotterby
- Ebenezer Balfour – antagonist in the novel Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Montgomery Burns – recurring character in the television show The Simpsons
- Cotta – in Epistle to Bathurst by Alexander Pope
- Henry Earlforward – in Arnold Bennet's novel Riceyman Steps
- Paulie Gualtieri - a DeMeo crime family capo on The Sopranos
- Felix Grandet – father of the eponymous yay in the novel Eugénie Grandet by Balzac
- Harpagon – a lead character in Molière's play The Miser
- Alan Harper, a character in the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men
- J. Jonah Jameson - supporting character of Spider-Man
- Mr. Krabs - Spongebob Squarepants's boss at the Krusty Krab
- Malbecco – "a cancred crabbed Carle" in Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queene
- Silas Marner – title character of George Eliot's novel Silas Marner
- Scrooge McDuck - Donald Duck's Uncle
- Mr. Mean character in the Mr. Men series of children's books
- Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs
- Mr. Prokharchin – title character of the short story Mr. Prokharchin by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Ebenezer Scrooge – lead character of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- Shylock – moneylender in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
- Volpone – title character of the Ben Jonson comedy Volpone
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.
- ^ 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
- ^ Nicky Hayes (2000), Foundations of psychology, Cengage Learning, http://books.google.com/books?id=2m1UQI4QpVsC&pg=PT232
- ^ Keith McMahon (1995), Misers, shrews, and polygamists, Duke University Press, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=B6k9eEpDJBAC&pg=PA5
- ^ J.B.Smith (1984), "Of Skinflints and Pinch-Farthings", Folklore 95 (ii): 177+, http://www.jstor.org/pss/1260202
- ^ Scott Gillam, Andrew Carnegie, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EdvvAMBILJQC&pg=PA71
- ^ Gordon Mackenzie (1972), Marylebone: great city north of Oxford Street, Macmillan, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=pPUgAAAAMAAJ
- ^ 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
- ^ 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
- ^ 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.
- ^ Lantz, K. A. (2004). The Dostoevsky encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 118. ISBN 0313303843. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=XfDOcmJisn0C&pg=PA118.
- ^ Jennifer Doane Upton, Dark Way to Paradise, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RnhlOrCgf-UC&pg=PA40
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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