Skinflint is an idiom that has been in use since the 1600s. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying skinflint, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

A skinflint is a miser, someone who is overly cautious with his money, someone who is stingy and selfish. The idiom skinflint is a closed compound word, which is a word composed of two separate words joined together without a space or hyphen. The expression skinflint dates back to the 1600s; the image is of someone who is so miserly, he will skin off a bit of flint to sell. Flint is a plentiful substance and the amount of money one would gain from such an endeavor would not be worth the trouble. A similar idiom that was popular in the 1700s is he would skin a louse (or a flea) for the tallow. The plural form of skinflint is skinflints.


An all-time Christmas staple is the 1951 movie “A Christmas Carol,” starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, skinflint extraordinaire. (Daily Astorian)

Let’s help you do that, with a skinflint’s guide to saving money by cutting the cord. (USA Today)

I admit to frequently saying ‘no extra cost’ which I suppose makes me a bit of a skinflint but seriously, when one can do something for nothing then why spend money. (Majorca Daily Bulletin)

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