A Dime a Dozen | Phrases

Meaning:

This phrase is used to describe things that are abundant in quantity and/or very cheap; something that’s easily acquired.

Example: These glass cups might look expensive, but they are a dime a dozen over at the general store. In other words, the glass cups are cheap and readily available at the store.
Synonyms / Related Phrases:
1. Run of the mill
2. Bought for a song
A dime, a small coin worth ten cents.
In the 19th century, a dime could be used to purchase a dozen eggs, among other foods.

The Origin Of “A Dime a Dozen”

In the year 1796, the first U.S. dimes were produced for circulation. Thus, I think it’s reasonable to say the phrase’s origin must have happened during or after that year. From what I’ve seen, this phrase probably originated during the 1800s. I say this because during this century, various newspapers had advertisements that were selling different foods for the literal price of a dime a dozen.

For example, some of the foods being sold at that price (based on the newspapers I saw) were eggs, oranges, peaches, and others. Of course, the dime was worth more back then compared to its value today, but even so, it sounds like people were getting a nice deal. Anyways, one of the newspapers that mentioned these kinds of prices was the Galveston Daily News, 1866:

“The San Antonio Ledger says the city is well stocked with peaches at a dime a dozen.”

Okay, so when did this phrase start to be used with its figurative meaning of “something that’s very common and/or of small worth”? It looks like this happened sometime around the 1930s, or at least, that is the earliest I could find it in print being used in a such a manner. For example, it’s used figuratively in The Northern Miner newspaper, 1931, where it reads:

“‘Carners,’ the old-timer said, ‘is just an overgrown clown. As for the others–Schaof, Baer, Paulino, Risko, Campolo–they’re nothing but ‘dime a dozen fighters.’ “

Another example of this expression with its figurative usage comes six years later, from the Sandusky Register, 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.”


Example Sentences

Here is a example of how this phrase can be used in a sentence:

  • I was at a family reunion and everyone was so happy to see each other. Hugs were a dime a dozen everywhere you looked.

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