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

Although the meanings of the words in them do not make any sense when examined one by one, the word groups that are shaped according to the cultural roots of the language and that make sense as a whole are called idioms. Costs an arm and a leg meaning, in what situations is it used?

Meaning of "Costs an arm and a leg"


The phrase ‘costs an arm and a leg’ is an idiomatic expression used to describe something that is very expensive. It is often used to emphasize how unaffordable it is to purchase the item. The phrase is used in a humorous way to indicate how ridiculously expensive something can be.


The phrase ‘costs an arm and a leg’ is believed to have originated during World War I. The phrase was used to describe the exorbitant prices charged for materials necessary for the war effort. The phrase is thought to refer to the high cost of war materials in terms of lives lost on the battlefield, as soldiers would be forced to pay the ultimate price - their lives - for the war effort.


The phrase ‘costs an arm and a leg’ is mainly used in informal contexts. It is typically used in conversation to emphasize how expensive something is. It can also be used in more playful contexts to express disbelief at how expensive something is. For example, one might say “That dress must have cost you an arm and a leg!”

Example Sentences

  • That new car must have cost you an arm and a leg!
  • I can't afford that painting - it costs an arm and a leg!
  • I'm not surprised the repairs cost so much - cars these days cost an arm and a leg to maintain.
  • That dress must have cost an arm and a leg - it looks very expensive!

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

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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