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adjective American informal


'The phone will leap from its already spendy European price of 550 Euros to $895 USD.'

DigitalTrends 26th August 2008

'When the going gets tough, it seems, the tough bring in their lunches, or grab something in the office cafeteria (or both) in lieu of a spendier meal at a nearby restaurant.'

Star Tribune 4th September 2008

'At $220 (sale price) it is the spendiest of my sleeping bags. But worth every penny …'

Clubtread.com 19th June 2007

'It's lovely but it's expensive …' or it's pricey, costly, exorbitant, dear, a bit steep – and in the noughties, it's spendy. Relative to nouns and noun compounds, adjectives are comparatively infrequent additions to the world of English neologisms, so roll out the red carpet for a newbie. The adjective spendy has hit mainstream use in American English, and is quietly working its way onto the lexicographical radar.

Spendy has caught on as a catchy new synonym for expensive. Its appeal and correspondingly speedy journey into mainstream usage may have been galvanised by its form, i.e. like pricey and costly, spendy's meaning is instantly recognizable as a money concept (compare: price, cost, spend).

when applied to people … spendy can imply that they are extravagant, waste money, or are overpaid

Though spendy is regularly used across the board as an informal and trendy alternative to expensive, its typical contexts of use are in relation to the purchase of desirable, luxury items, things which might have cost you an arm and a leg, but will give you lots of pleasure once you've got them. Typical examples of goods that might be described as spendy are designer clothes and jewellery, or electronic products such as large plasma screen TVs or digital SLR cameras.

Spendy can also have more negative connotations. When applied to people for instance, it can imply that they are extravagant, waste money, or are overpaid (for example in the recent US press, there are plenty of references to spendy consumers and spendy politicians).

Background – spendy

The exact origins of spendy are unclear, with some arguing that it evolved from a blend of the words expensive and trendy, and others believing it to be an adjectival play on spend (taking inspiration from e.g. pricey, a derivative of price which was first attested in 1932). If you subscribe to the latter view, then spendy might also relate to the noun spendthrift.

Spendy follows the same grammatical distribution as expensive, occurring in both attributive position (i.e. before the noun, e.g. an expensive/spendy restaurant) or predicative position (i.e. following link verbs like, be, seem etc, e.g. That restaurant seems a bit expensive/spendy.). It can also be followed by the to-infinitive (e.g. It was pretty expensive/spendy to repair).

However whereas expensive can only form the comparative and superlative with more and most (a phenomenon technically described in linguistics as periphrasis), spendy has the comparative and superlative forms spendier and spendiest (compare dirty and dirtier/dirtiest — such forms are described as inflectional comparatives and superlatives).

Like some other adjectives in English (e.g. rich, happy), spendy can express comparison by use of both periphrastic and inflectional forms (e.g. That restaurant was more/the most spendy. That restaurant was spendier/the spendiest).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 7th November 2008.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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