Many English idioms concern money in some way. The idiom may be related to paying for things, the cost of goods, or whether an individual is wealthy or poor. Sometimes, money idioms simply mention money. The following video explains the meaning of ten money idioms in English, providing examples of use in sentences. The full transcript/article is below the video.
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Transcript: English Money Idioms
Something that is a dime a dozen is very common and easily found; plentiful and of little to no value; common and therefore cheap. A dime a dozen can refer to a person or thing but most often refers to a thing.
“Those toy prizes at carnivals are a dime a dozen.”
“Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen and they’re all the same!”
A penny saved is a penny earned is a way of saying that one should not waste money but should save it, even if little by little. This idiom, which is more of a maxim, is so common it’s often shortened to ‘a penny saved.’
“I’m not going to buy a new car just because mine is a little beat up. A penny saved is a penny earned.”
“I’ve tried to get my wife to stop shopping all the time. You know, a penny saved and all that. But, she doesn’t listen!”
An arm and a leg is a very large amount of money; a very high price. Something can cost an arm and a leg or a person can charge an arm and a leg for something.
We might pay, or refuse to pay, an arm and a leg or one might give an arm and a leg. When we say something “costs an arm and a leg” we mean that it is much too expensive and overpriced.
“Hotel rooms around here cost an arm and a leg.”
“I had a flat tire on the way to work and the guy at the gas station charged me an arm and a leg to fix it.”
A cash cow is something, such as a product or business, that is a reliable source of profit; a dependable money-maker that contributes the most overall profits to a business.
“I was hesitant to invest in my brother-in-law’s business venture but it turned out to be a cash cow.”
“Not every invention, no matter how good, can be a cash cow.”
Cash on the barrelhead is an American idiom with the same meaning as the British expression cash on the nail (or nail head). It means immediate payment up front before any goods or services are received.
When you are expected to put cash on the barrelhead you are expected to pay without delay, with no credit allowed.
“How much to repair the sink,” asked Beverly. “Two-hundred bucks, cash on the barrelhead,” said the handyman.
“Maria was amazed when the man said he would buy the house for $300,000, cash on the barrelhead.
To chip in means to contribute some money to a cause, a business, or any other effort requiring money. It can also mean to contribute to an effort in any way, such as with physical help. This usually has the connotation of being a small amount of help or money, where each of a group of people is contributing something.
Occasionally, the expression is used to mean the same as chime in such as with a remark during a discussion.
From Mark Twain’s Innocents at Home, 1869: “Pard, he was a great loss to this town. It would please the boys if you could chip in something like that, and do him justice.”
“I know it’s late, but if we all chip in we can get this place cleaned up in no time.”
Cold, hard cash means actual money in the form of bills and coins as opposed to checks, credit, or any other form of payment; money that is readily available for payment. This idiom is most often shortened to just cold cash or hard cash, with the latter being more common.
“I deal only in cold, hard cash. You want to do business with me, don’t bring a checkbook!”
“I don’t have any hard cash on me. Do you take credit cards?”
For my money means in my opinion; my preference; or my choice. This idiom alludes to how you would spend your money if given the chance.
“For my money, a sports car is not a very good choice.”
“For my money, decorating the house is not a priority when the roof needs to be replaced.”
To not have two pennies to rub together means to be broke; very poor; impoverished. The expression can be used to indicate a temporary lack of funds or ongoing poverty.
“I’d like to get a new apartment but I barely have two pennies to rub together.”
“Tom grew up very poor. His family never had two pennies to rub together.”
We use the expression a penny for your thoughts when we wish to know what is on another person’s mind. It tends to be used when another person we are with is unusually quiet and withdrawn, perhaps seeming introspective or distracted. It means simply “what are you thinking?”
“You seem quiet today,” said Francis. “A penny for your thoughts?”
“You’ve said barely a word all evening. A penny for your thoughts?”
- Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees
- Put in One’s Two Cents Worth
- Pony Up
- Dirt Cheap Meaning
- Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
- Arm and a Leg, an
- Money Laundering
- Two Pennies to Rub Together, to not have
- Blow a Hole in
- A Day Late and a Dollar Short
- Under the Table
- Take Someone to the Cleaners
- Strapped for Cash
- Penny for Your Thoughts, a
- Pass the Hat Around
- A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned
- On a Shoestring
- Money Burns a Hole in Your (or one’s) Pocket
- Made Of Money
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