AskDefine | Define miser

Dictionary Definition

miser n : a stingy hoarder of money and possessions (often living miserably)

User Contributed Dictionary






  1. A person who hoards money rather than spending it; one who is cheap or extremely parsimonious.
    Ebenezer Scrooge was a stereotypical miser, he spent nothing he could save; neither giving to charity nor enjoying his wealth.



a skinflint or scrooge

Derived terms

See also



miser, f. misera, n. miserum


Extensive Definition

A miser is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts. The term derives from the Latin miser, meaning "poor" or "wretched," comparable to the modern word "miserable".

Famous misers in history

  • Earl Stevenson retired Air Force TSgt. Lived in Plattsburgh, New York near the old Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York and lived in rented rooms, hoarding useless items and scrimping to become a millionaire from stock market before he died.
  • Ephraim Lópes Pereira d'Aguilar, 2nd Baron d'Aguilar - an eccentric nobleman.
  • Andrew Carnegie - Scottish born American industrialist, was notoriously "thrifty" until his old age, when he endowed numerous charities, including the New York Public Library. He was infamous for tipping a dime for services rendered, especially when a much larger tip was appropriate.
  • The Collyer brothers of New York City, who earned notoriety for living in a filthy, booby-trapped home.
  • Hetty Green - Cortland miser - was considered the world's wealthiest woman in 1916.
  • Joseph Nollekens - Londoner generally considered to be the finest British sculptor of the late 18th century, he was also a notorious miser.
  • Gene Burd is a 76-year-old journalism professor at the University of Texas that walks seven miles per day round trip to and from work and has donated over a million dollars to an educational foundation. Mr. Burd was the subject of a front page story in the Austin American-Statesman on July 19, 2007 in which it chronicles his miserly ways. He has never married, holds his hand over his mouth when he speaks, has no automobile, lives in a small apartment, wears shoes he found in the trash, and picks up pennies to "pay his phone bill." He amassed a fortune on a modest salary due to his extremely frugal ways.
  • Charles Huffman was a miser from the 1950's in the U.S. He was found dead on a Brooklyn, New York street with no money in his pockets. The police traced him to a $7 per week room that was filled with bank books and more than $500,000 in stock certificates. He was characterized by Franz Lidz, in The New York Times, on October 26, 2003.

List of notable misers in fiction


The stereotype of the miser is a wealthy, greedy man who lives miserably in order to save and increase his treasure. Other stereotypes are the "thrifty" Scotsmen and the "frugal" Dutch.
A related stereotype is the capitalist as portrayed in, for example, Soviet propaganda. Both are usually moneylenders or industrialists, in any case businessmen, who possess great personal wealth but aren't bothered by the fate of the poor. The difference is that, unlike the miser, the capitalist does spend his money and is typically portrayed leading a decadent life. Anti-Semites have portrayed Jews both as misers and/or capitalists.
The motivation for miserliness or avarice can be a strong desire to gain, especially in money or power. Psychoanalytic explanations, e.g. in the tradition of Sigmund Freud, link it to experiences in early childhood in the anal phase within the concept of psychosexual development.


1. "Burd's Eye View" Austin American Statesman, July 19, 2007. Page A1.
miser in German: Geiz
miser in Spanish: Avaro
miser in Croatian: Motiv škrtca
miser in Malay (macrolanguage): Bakhil
miser in Dutch: Vrek

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Silas Marner, accumulator, bill collector, cheapskate, churl, collection agent, collector, connoisseur, curmudgeon, douanier, dunner, exciseman, farmer, gatherer, glutton, hog, magpie, muckworm, niggard, pack rat, penny pincher, pig, piker, pinchfist, pinchgut, pinchpenny, save-all, scrooge, skin, skinflint, stiff, tax collector, tightwad
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