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What Is a Scrooge?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 23, 2024
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"Scrooge" is a term derived from the Charles Dickens' story, A Christmas Carol, which is about a character named Ebenezer Scrooge, a man who is rich, unwilling to share his money with the poor, grumpy, and unappreciative of any aspect of the Christmas holiday. Eventually, the story became very popular worldwide, and people started using the term as a kind of insult to describe many different behaviors similar to the character's in the story. The term has generally become popular enough so that some people may use it without knowing very much about the original story at all.

In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge is an elderly shop owner with lots of money. He is unwilling to help his workers in any way, not even those with very difficult lives, and he refuses to make special exceptions for the Christmas season. While he sleeps, supernatural forces congregate to teach him a lesson. He has visions of several ghosts, representing different points in time, and they show him all sorts of important moral lessons that eventually help him to become a better person. When people use the character's name as an insult, they generally apply it to someone who has demonstrated one or more behaviors that line up with those seen in the first part of the story.

Many people call someone a scrooge because the individual has shown a tendency for greed. This is especially true when the greedy behavior specifically affects those who are less fortunate. For example, if someone raises prices on a crucial item at a time when people desperately need it, that person might be described in this way. The term could also be used if someone were to run a business and underpay his employees even though they worked very hard and helped him make huge profits.

Another common behavior associated with the term is a lack of compassion for those living in poverty. This could include those with lots of money who refuse to give to charity. Another example would be someone who refuses to give a loan to a friend in need.

One more key aspect of scrooge-like behavior is a lack of appreciation for the more joyful things in life. People use the term to describe people who are grumpy and generally unhappy. For example, a person who refuses to return another person's smile or a someone who yells at his subordinates rudely could be called by this name. It is also used to describe people who hate any kind of holiday experience, especially those who don't enjoy the Christmas holiday specifically.

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Discussion Comments
By wavy58 — On Sep 04, 2012

The older I get, the more I understand how some people wind up becoming scrooges. Life is much harder than we were told it would be in our youth, and there are so many things that can make a person bitter.

The more hurts and disappointments you have in life, the more you become jaded and bitter. You learn to stop expecting good things to happen, and even when they do, you are afraid to accept them, because they seem to good to be true.

I think that every scrooge has a reason for his behavior. We have no idea what events in his life may have scarred him. I don't think that anyone becomes a scrooge simply because they decide they want to act that way.

By cloudel — On Sep 03, 2012

@ZipLine – People use this term rather loosely, so anyone exhibiting even one of the scrooge characteristics could be called a scrooge. Personally, though, I wouldn't categorize your boss as a scrooge.

It just sounds like he is frustrated or under a lot of pressure. The fact that he isn't all bad shows that something in his life is probably stressing him out and making him edgy.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 02, 2012

The Scrooge in the film reminds me so much of several people I see in the grocery store each week. They are very rude, they don't ever say, “Excuse me,” if they get in your way, and it would probably kill them to smile.

I do realize that they could be just having a bad day, though. I suppose it's unfair to assume that they are scrooges all the time.

By ZipLine — On Sep 01, 2012

My boss is kind of grumpy, he doesn't smile a lot. He has a short-fuse and can get angry and yell at you if you rub him the wrong way

But he doesn't underpay his employees and I have seen him help people.

So is he a scrooge?

By fBoyle — On Sep 01, 2012

@donasmrs-- Unfortunately, that only happens in movies. My grandfather is a scrooge. He is just a miserable old man who is never content with anything and who doesn't like to share his wealth with anyone. He is like the perfect real-life example of the scrooge story except there are no ghosts to bring him to his senses.

Despite being really well off, he never supported my dad or his siblings after they were eighteen. Even if they were in a really bad situation financially, they couldn't ask their dad for help.

And scrooges aren't only stingy with money but they are stingy with emotional support and love too. My grandfather doesn't show love for anyone, not his kids nor his grand-kids. He is such a weird man.

Despite all this, if he were to need my dad's help when he's too old to care for himself, my dad would still help him.

By donasmrs — On Aug 31, 2012

I was really young when I saw A Christmas Carol. It used to be on TV during the Christmas season and I think there are still a few channels who show it around Christmas time.

I remember being really affected by this movie. I loved how Mr. Scrooge was taught a lesson by the ghosts. I think they were called " the ghosts of Christmas past" if I remember correctly.

To this day, I wish people who are stingy, rude and incompassionate would receive such a lesson and could change themselves for the better.

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