"mean or stingy person, miser," late 14c., nigard, nygard, nygart, also with a variant nigoun, nygun (c. 1300), a word of uncertain origin. The suffix suggests French origin (see -ard), but the root word is possibly from earlier nig "stingy" (c. 1300), which is perhaps from a Scandinavian source related to Old Norse *hniggw, related to hnøggr "stingy," from Proto-Germanic *khnauwjaz (source of Swedish njugg "close, careful," German genau "precise, exact"). Perhaps also related to Old English hneaw "stingy, niggardly," which did not survive in Middle English. A noun nig "niggardly person" is attested from c. 1300, but OED considers this unlikely to be the source of the longer word.
c. 1300, "stingy person," which is connected to niggard (q.v.). As an abbreviated form of nigger, the word is attested by c. 1832, in American English, in the "Jim Crow" song. It is noted in an 1879 British book on colonial household management as "a term too often applied ... to the Indian natives."
1590s (implied in niggling), "work in a finicky, fussy way; trifle, be employed in petty carping," a word of uncertain origin; possibly from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian dialectal nigla "be busy with trifles"), perhaps related to source of niggard. Related: Niggled; niggling; niggler.
It was while giving a speech in Washington, to a very international audience, about the British theft of the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon. I described the attitude of the current British authorities as "niggardly." Nobody said anything, but I privately resolved — having felt the word hanging in the air a bit — to say "parsimonious" from then on. [Christopher Hitchens, "The Pernicious Effects of Banning Words," Slate.com, Dec. 4, 2006]
As an adverb, "parsimoniously, grudgingly," from 1520s. Related: Niggardliness.