The words proliferate and profligate are close in spelling and pronunciation, but have very different meanings. They are often confused. We will examine the difference between the definitions of proliferate and profligate, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
Proliferate means to quickly increase in number, to multiply in a rapid manner, to produce a large amount or to reproduce quickly. The word proliferate has come to be associated with the nuclear arms race, in the term nuclear proliferation. In the 1970s, the number of nuclear weapons owned by the United States and the Soviet Union increased dramatically. Producing so many weapons increased the danger of nuclear war, whether because of an actual conflict, or simply by accident. Arms control became a concern at this time, and nuclear disarmament became a goal of the international community, even though no nuclear weapon had been used since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1972 and 1979, through negotiation and mutual concern over the threat that the atomic arsenal posed to the world, the United States and the Soviet Union signed Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, a cooperation between the two countries on limiting the nuclear arsenal. Diplomatic efforts had produced a non-proliferation treaty, though nuclear proliferation has increased over time. Today, the United States and Russia are not the only countries with the capability of building an atomic bomb weapon. China, North Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India and Pakistan have all harnessed the technology need to build nuclear weapons of mass destruction. While most often associated with nuclear arms, the word proliferate is also used to describe anything that multiplies rapidly. Proliferate is a verb, related words are proliferates, proliferated, proliferating, proliferation. The word proliferate is a back-formation from the noun proliferation, which in turn was taken from the French word prolifération which means producing offspring.
Profligate describes someone who spends too much money, someone who is licentious in his actions, immoral, reckless, extravagant, wasteful. A person who inherited a large sum of money and spent it all, quickly, on drinking and carousing would be called profligate. The word profligate may be used as a noun or an adjective, related words are profligately, profligacy. Profligate is derived from the Latin word profligatus which means corrupt or ruined.
The Indian nuclear programme by then had survived the pressure of the Non- Proliferation Treaty of 1968 but it had to go through the most difficult set of technological restrictions after 1974. (The Hindu)
The daughter of the late Senator John McCain has said Silicon Valley must stop allowing Russian propaganda to proliferate in the U.S. given the role it played in the last election. (Newsweek)
It’s a kind of stress that many people need to prepare for as the climate warms and wildfires proliferate, she said. (The Seymour Tribune)
Schwartz, who has practiced law in West Virginia for 30 years, said his top priority will be to fix the state court system’s money management, which he blames for the profligate spending by the court’s justices. (The Martinsburg Journal)
Not so long ago, thunderbolts of invective were being thrown at the Prime Minister for her profligate decision to take a separate Air Force flight to the Pacific Forum — at an alleged cost of around $80,000 (half a heart transplant, five prostate brachytherapies, plus change) — so she could keep the visit short while nursing her baby. (The New Zealand Herald)