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Prodigal vs. Prodigious: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson || Updated on May 23, 2024
Prodigal refers to someone who spends resources lavishly or wastefully. Prodigious describes something remarkably or impressively great in size, extent, or degree.

Key Differences

Prodigal is often used to describe a person who is extravagantly wasteful with money or resources. The term carries a negative connotation, implying recklessness and lack of restraint. A common usage is in the phrase "prodigal son," referring to someone who returns after squandering their wealth. Prodigious, on the other hand, describes something extraordinary in size, amount, or degree. It has a positive connotation, highlighting something impressive or remarkable. Prodigious can refer to physical size, intellectual ability, or any other significant quantity or quality.
Prodigal spending habits can lead to financial ruin, as it involves reckless and extravagant use of money or resources. Prodigious achievements or talents, however, are often celebrated and admired, as they denote outstanding ability or effort.
A prodigal individual may be criticized for their wastefulness and lack of foresight. In contrast, a prodigious individual is often praised for their extraordinary capabilities or contributions.
Prodigal behavior is often associated with moral or financial irresponsibility. Prodigious feats, by contrast, are associated with exceptional talent, intelligence, or effort, often inspiring admiration and awe.

Comparison Chart


Extravagantly wasteful or lavish
Remarkably or impressively great



Common Context

Spending, resource use
Size, extent, degree

Example Phrase

Prodigal son
Prodigious talent

Associated Traits

Recklessness, wastefulness
Remarkable, extraordinary

Prodigal and Prodigious Definitions


Extravagantly wasteful or lavish in spending.
His prodigal lifestyle left him bankrupt.


Remarkably or impressively great in size or degree.
The prodigious mountain loomed over the valley.


Lavish or profuse in giving.
She was known for her prodigal generosity.


Extraordinary in extent or quantity.
He has a prodigious memory for facts.


Spending money or resources freely and recklessly.
The prodigal heir wasted the family fortune.


Causing amazement or wonder.
The prodigious talent of the young musician was evident.


Characterized by wasteful expenditure.
Their prodigal habits led to financial troubles.


Impressively great or large.
She has a prodigious appetite for learning.


Recklessly spending resources.
The prodigal son returned home after squandering his inheritance.


Enormous or immense.
The prodigious effort resulted in a groundbreaking discovery.


Rashly or wastefully extravagant
Prodigal expenditures on unneeded weaponry.
A prodigal nephew who squandered his inheritance.


Impressively great in size, force, or extent; enormous
A prodigious storm.


Giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse
"the infinite number of organic beings with which the sea of the tropics, so prodigal of life, teems" (Charles Darwin).


Extraordinary; marvelous
A prodigious talent.


One who is given to wasteful luxury or extravagance.


(Obsolete) Portentous; ominous.


Wastefully extravagant.
He found himself guilty of prodigal spending during the holidays.
The prodigal son spent his share of his inheritance until he was destitute.


Very big in size or quantity; colossal, gigantic, huge.


Yielding profusely, lavish.
She was a merry person, glad and prodigal of smiles.
How can he be so prodigal with money on such a tight budget?


Extraordinarily amazing or exciting.


Profuse, lavishly abundant.


Freakish; monstrous.


(by allusion to the New Testament story commonly called "The Parable of the Prodigal Son", [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15:11–32 Luke 15:11–32]) Behaving as a prodigal son:


(obsolete) Ominous, portentous.


Having (selfishly) abandoned a person, group, or ideal.


Of the nature of a prodigy; marvelous; wonderful; portentous.
It is prodigious to have thunder in a clear sky.


Returning or having returned, especially repentantly, after such an abandonment.


Extraordinary in bulk, extent, quantity, or degree; very great; vast; huge; immense; as, a prodigious mountain; a prodigious creature; a prodigious blunder.


A prodigal person; a spendthrift; a wastrel.


So great in size or force or extent as to elicit awe;
Colossal crumbling ruins of an ancient temple
Has a colossal nerve
A prodigious storm
A stupendous field of grass
Stupendous demand


Given to extravagant expenditure; expending money or other things without necessity; recklessly or viciously profuse; lavish; wasteful; not frugal or economical; as, a prodigal man; the prodigal son; prodigal giving; prodigal expenses.
In fighting fields [patriots] were prodigal of blood.


Of momentous or ominous significance;
Such a portentous...monster raised all my curiosity
A prodigious vision


One who expends money extravagantly, viciously, or without necessity; one that is profuse or lavish in any expenditure; a waster; a spendthrift.


Far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree;
A night of exceeding darkness
An exceptional memory
Olympian efforts to save the city from bankruptcy
The young Mozart's prodigious talents


A recklessly extravagant consumer


Very generous;
Distributed gifts with a lavish hand
The critics were lavish in their praise
A munificent gift
His father gave him a half-dollar and his mother a quarter and he thought them munificent
Prodigal praise
Unsparing generosity
His unstinted devotion
Called for unstinting aid to Britain


Recklessly wasteful;
Prodigal in their expenditures


Marked by rash extravagance;
Led a prodigal life


Is prodigious a positive or negative term?

Prodigious is a positive term, implying something impressive or extraordinary.

What does prodigal mean?

Prodigal means extravagantly wasteful or lavish, especially in spending resources.

Can prodigal refer to generosity?

Yes, prodigal can describe someone who is lavishly generous.

What does prodigious mean?

Prodigious means remarkably or impressively great in size, extent, or degree.

What is a common context for prodigious?

Prodigious is often used in the context of size, talent, or achievement.

Is prodigal associated with financial irresponsibility?

Yes, prodigal often implies financial irresponsibility.

Is prodigal a positive or negative term?

Prodigal is generally a negative term, implying wastefulness.

Can prodigious describe talent?

Yes, prodigious can describe exceptional talent or ability.

Does prodigal have a biblical reference?

Yes, the term "prodigal son" comes from a biblical parable.

What is a common phrase using prodigal?

"Prodigal son" is a common phrase.

Can prodigious describe size?

Yes, prodigious can describe something extremely large.

Can prodigal describe lavish spending?

Yes, prodigal specifically refers to lavish or wasteful spending.

What part of speech is prodigious?

Prodigious is an adjective.

What part of speech is prodigal?

Prodigal is an adjective.

Can prodigious describe intellectual ability?

Yes, prodigious can describe exceptional intellectual ability.

Is prodigal used to praise someone?

No, prodigal is typically not used to praise someone; it implies criticism.

Is prodigious used to describe impressive achievements?

Yes, prodigious is used to describe impressive or extraordinary achievements.

Does prodigious relate to effort or achievement?

Yes, prodigious relates to significant or impressive effort or achievement.

Is prodigious used to praise someone?

Yes, prodigious is often used to praise someone's extraordinary qualities.

Does prodigal relate to resource use?

Yes, prodigal relates to wasteful or extravagant use of resources.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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