Pass the Hat Around

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Also: Pass the Hat

Meaning of Idiom 'Pass the Hat Around'

To pass the hat around means to collect money by asking for donations from friends, coworkers, or colleagues. 1,2


This may refer literally to passing around a hat or other container in which people are expected to place their monetary donations. However, it is usually used figuratively.

A common reason to pass the hat is to raise money for a coworker or in need or for purchasing a birthday or other gift for a coworker or friend.


"Ann has worked here so long and I want her to feel appreciated. Maybe we could buy her a nice gift or even a cruise or something," said Fran. "I love the cruise idea," said Vic, "but we may need to pass the hat so we can really afford a good one."

"We passed the hat around to help pay for Richard's surgery. We wouldn't have needed to if the boss gave up health insurance."


Used since the late 1800's, this idiom probably derived from the actual use of hats for collecting money, as they are collection vessel during impromptu drives.

1. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill's American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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