Pony Up

Meaning Of Idiom ‘Pony Up’

To pony up means to pay what is owed or due; to settle one’s debt. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.,3Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.


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Usage

This idiom can apply to money owed someone or money that has to be paid on a recurring basis, such as rent. Pony up is sometimes, as well, used to mean the same as ante up, including in games of poker or other games of chance.

Examples Of Use

“You owe me fifty bucks and I need the cash. Pony up,” said Mick.

“If I don’t pony up this month’s rent soon I’m going to be evicted.”

“This winter was unusually frigid, causing homeowners to have to pony up much more than usual for heating bills.”

“You can’t mess around with loan sharks. You’d better pony up fast or else.”

“My mother’s church has 11 members and everyone has to pony up more than their fair share to keep it going.”

“The city is trying to get this administration to pony up for the mounting security costs.”

Origin

Although you may hear ‘pony up’ in reference to poker, where it means to put up money or something of value, the same as ante up, this idiom did not derive from poker.

To pony up is an American expression with roots in British English. It has been used since at least 1825 and comes from the British word poney, which meant a small amount of money. This may have come from comparing a small amount of money to a small horse and, in fact, the word pony is still used today in reference to small things such as a small glass of beer. Curiously, poney has long been used to refer to a specific sum of 25 pounds, although in the 18th century this was a quite large sum of money. 4Editors of the American Heritage Dictionary. More Word Histories and Mysteries: from Aardvark to Zombie. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.
3. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
4. Editors of the American Heritage Dictionary. More Word Histories and Mysteries: from Aardvark to Zombie. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.