I'm brazilian and I'm quite fluent in English, however sometimes I have trouble with some expressions. This time it's when someone is called a "cheap person". What does it mean?

I saw this in the following article http://www.esquire.com/women/advice-98-year-old

Is this a poor person?

7 Answers 7


Someone who is "cheap" is a person that is reluctant to spend money. It's a negative way to describe a person.

Some people are reluctant to spend money and can be called "cautious", that is a more positive way to describe a person. For example, you have bills to pay so decide to cook instead of going to a restaurant. This is positive because it's responsible to be careful with your money.

A "cheap person" is a person that is ungenerous with their money.

For example, I want a pair of $50 Nike shoes, but my mom buys me FAKE Nike shoes that cost $15. Yes, the fake Nikes are cheaper, but their quality is poor. Most people would prefer paying the extra money for the Nikes because they are of higher quality and will last longer, but my mother doesn't care about that. My mother is cheap because the only thing that matters to her is to spend as little money as possible.

Someone can be rich, but be cheap. For example, billionaire Donald Trump buying his wife a Ford when she preferred (and he can afford) a BMW.


A Cheap person is someone who doesn't like to spend money. Cheap also means showing a lack of honesty and moral principles.

  • If you want to avoid the negative connotations, the partial synonym is 'frugal'; it may be e.g. because someone has very low income and can't afford any luxuries, getting by on absolute minimum instead. "Cheap" will rather denote someone, who choose to skimp on expenses and pick a worse option for no good reason.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 5:09

There are a couple of meanings you can take from the word cheap used in this sense.

It could, as @Benyamin Hamidekhoo said, mean that they are reluctant when it comes to spending money. Synonyms include tight and tight-fisted.

In the sense of the article you referred to though it means easy to please, or easy to win over. Someone who is cheap doesn't want much and is a bit of a pushover in that sense. The article is saying that the man had only physical affection for the writer, and that was the only reason they would even talk to them.

Cheap certainly doesn't mean poor. That would be referring to the actual value of a person in economic terms, rather than their personality and individual wants.


It can mean different things depending on context:


(from urban dictionary)

A reference to one of the following:

  1. An individual who is extremely careful with money
  2. An individual who is easy to have sex with
  3. An individual who uses the same tactic/tactics to win
  4. An object that is worth very little

1." That guy's cheap "

2." She's real cheap " or " He's real cheap "

3." You're cheap! " " Man, that's cheap "

4." Those jeans are cheap! "

  • Yes, but you missed out 5. contemptible, unworthy, as in "That was a cheap shot!" Commented Sep 15, 2013 at 17:49

A "cheap person" is usually a person who doesn't like to spend money, especially someone who doesn't spend money in situations when he can and should. A slang term for such a person is "cheapskate". Googling "cheapskate stories" reveals this succinct little gem:

My grandparents have a lot of money but get mad if you don't use paper towels twice. If they've only been used to mop up water, they have to be set on the counter to dry and are used again.

This is a very fine example of a cheap person.


One of the uses of 'cheap' is to describe that a person is of little worth. It is a reference to his character.

From Longman:

cheap (adj): showing a lack of honesty, moral principles, or sincere feelings, so that you do not deserve respect

Example goes like:

You’re lying, aren’t you? You’re so cheap.

  • +1 Spot on (at least in India). It's worth mentioning that in my country, if you call someone cheap, it is directly addressing someone's 'character'.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 4:17

Not exactly poor . But we generally used to call a person 'cheap' because of his or her activities. It means if someone does not have good behaviour - or we can say that if someone is a bad person then we call him a cheap person.

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