What does the idiom "cost an arm and a leg" mean?

The phrase cost an arm and a leg is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of cost an arm and a leg.

Meaning of "cost an arm and a leg"

Meaning

The phrase "cost an arm and a leg" means that the price of something is exorbitantly expensive. It is used to express the idea that the cost of something is so high that it would be as if it cost you an arm and a leg. It is also used to express a situation in which someone has to pay an excessively large amount for something.

Etymology

The expression has its roots in the ancient practice of charging a ransom for the release of prisoners of war. This was a common practice in the Middle Ages and it was often so expensive that it was said to cost "an arm and a leg". The phrase eventually became colloquial and took on a more figurative meaning.

Usage

The phrase "cost an arm and a leg" is usually used as a figure of speech to express the idea that something is extremely expensive. It is often used casually in conversation to make a point about the cost of something but is not taken literally. It can also be used as a warning to someone about the cost of something.

Example Sentences

  • I wanted to buy a new car, but it ended up costing me an arm and a leg!
  • This new laptop was supposed to be a bargain, but it ended up costing an arm and a leg!
  • If you're not careful, this vacation can end up costing you an arm and a leg!
  • The rent here is so high, it feels like it's costing us an arm and a leg!

The meanings of the words in the "cost an arm and a leg" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.

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