When something is very common or easily obtained, you’ve likely heard someone say it’s a dime a dozen. This phrase is often used to describe things that are plentiful, ordinary, or lacking in special qualities. In this article, we will explore the meaning of the phrase “a dime a dozen,” its origins, and see examples of its use. So let’s dive in and see what insights we can glean from this expression.
“Dime a Dozen” Meaning
Something that is common and easily obtainable. The phrase “a dime a dozen” refers to an object, item, or thing that has little value, and it implies that the cost of these things is cheap. Let’s go over three important points about the meaning of this expression:
- A dime a dozen means that something is inexpensive or abundant in quantity, therefore making it easy to acquire.
- The phrase suggests that the item is ordinary and unremarkable.
- Since the item in question is not special in any significant way, it’s considered to be of little worth.
Here are some examples of how to use it in a sentence:
- “Cheap plastic cups are a dime a dozen at the dollar store, so if you need more that’s the place to look.”
- “In the city, coffee shops are a dime in a dozen, you can find them on nearly every block.”
- “Those stamps are not rare, they’re actually a dime a dozen at the post office.”
Note: This everyday saying refers to things that are common and thus not worth much. However, other idioms such as money doesn’t grow on trees, emphasize the value of money.
Origin of “A Dime a Dozen”
The first U.S. dimes were produced for circulation in the year 1796, so it’s likely that the origin of the expression “a dime a dozen” came sometime later.
During the 19th century, there were several newspapers that had advertisements for various foods, including eggs, oranges, and peaches. The listed price for these foods was literally a dime a dozen, which sounds like a great deal. However, keep in mind that the dime was more valuable back then compared to what it’s worth today. Even so, it’s possible that the phrase originated from the “dime a dozen” deals that were commonplace in the 19th century.
One of the newspapers that used the expression in a literal way was the Galveston Daily News, 1866:
“The San Antonio Ledger says the city is well stocked with peaches at a dime a dozen.”
When did this expression develop its figurative meaning of “something that’s very common and of small worth”? It’s possible that it was around the 1930s, as the saying was used in a metaphorical way around this time. For instance, from the Sandusky Register newspaper, 1937:
“Smiles were a dime a dozen in the Yankee clubhouse. Even Colonel Ruppert, owner of the club, was so stated he went from player to player shaking hands.”
See more phrases:
Nickel and dime
A fool and his money are soon parted
Out of left field
Everything but the kitchen sink
Go for broke
An arm and a leg
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Synonyms For a Dime a Dozen
If you’re looking for synonymous phrases or words for this saying, consider using one of these:
- Run of the of the mill
- Bought for a song
- Not a big deal
Next time you want to describe something as ordinary, you can use “a dime a dozen” or one of its synonyms, such as “run of the mill,” “middle of the road,” or “plain vanilla,” to get the job done. Speaking of abundancy, there are plenty more common English phrases to discover on here, so don’t forget to take a minute to read about what they mean and where they come from.
Don’t stop there! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fascinating money sayings in the English language. So put your dimes away and explore this list of expressions that are all related to money.