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Cheap Skate

Posted by Bruce Kahl on May 28, 2000

In Reply to: Skate posted by VC on May 28, 2000

No one knows for certain where the "skate" in "cheapskate" (meaning a very stingy person) came from, although we do know that "cheapskate" first appeared in English around 1896. Authorities are also fairly certain that this kind of "skate" is not related to the "skate" fish, which resembles a ray and takes its name from the Old Norse word "skata." The other common kind of "skate" (as in roller-skate or ice-skate) is also not related to "cheapskate," and comes from an Old French word ("eschasse") meaning "stilts."

The most plausible theory about the "skate" in "cheapskate" traces it to the Scots word "skate," a term of contempt which apparently also crops up in a slightly different form in the archaic term "blatherskite," meaning a person who blathers, or babbles nonsense. If this theory is true, "cheapskate" would thus translate as essentially "stingy creep," which makes sense.