What does the idiom "A dime a dozen" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does A dime a dozen mean? In what situations is A dime a dozen used?

Meaning of "A dime a dozen"


The phrase “a dime a dozen” is an idiom used to describe items or people that are plentiful or easily obtainable and therefore of little value. The phrase suggests that such items or people can be acquired for the price of a dime, or with little effort or cost. Thus, something that is described as “a dime a dozen” is replaceable and insignificant.


The phrase is thought to have originated in the late 1800s as an American idiomatic expression. The phrase may have been derived from the older biblical phrase “common as dirt”, or from the fact that a dozen items could be bought for a dime at the time. The phrase has been found in print as early as 1884 and was widely used by the early 1900s.


The phrase “a dime a dozen” is widely used to describe items or people that are plentiful and of little value. It is often used both literally, to refer to actual items or people, and figuratively, to refer to abstract concepts. For example, a person may refer to “cheap restaurants” as being “a dime a dozen”, meaning they are easy to find and of low quality.

Example Sentences

  • “This neighborhood has a lot of discount stores; they're a dime a dozen around here.”
  • “My job doesn't pay very well because there are so many people looking for work; minimum wage positions are a dime a dozen.”
  • “I don't think I need to buy this cheaply-made toy; they're a dime a dozen at the store.”

The meanings of the words in the "A dime a dozen" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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