an arm and a leg



The loss of an arm and a leg would be a high price to pay for something. The phrase originally derives from the Irish 1/2d coinage of King Charles II. On 23rd October 1680, the king granted letters patent to Sir Thomas Armstrong and Colonel George Legge to manufacture copper halfpennies for use in Ireland. The coins were later brought to the American colonies by Irish emigrants fleeing the Williamite Wars. The phrase "It will cost you an Arm and a Leg" was an abbreviation of the patentees' names, originally meaning "It will cost you a halfpenny".


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an arm and a leg (plural arms and legs)

  1. (idiomatic, hyperbolic) Usually used after the verb cost, but also often charge, pay, and spend: a very high price for an item or service; an exorbitant price;
    Synonym: pretty penny (cost a pretty penny)
    • 1954, Commentary, volume 18, American Jewish Committee, page 448:
      That Polack costs me an arm and a leg, he thought.
    • 1960 March 29, “Slim waists prompted new sportswear line”, in The New York Times, page 44:
      Bangle bracelets in fourteen-karat gold that do not cost an arm and a leg are always in demand.
    • 2008, Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives, Pan Macmillan, →ISBN, page 417:
      Her house was fabulous, her tits perfection – besides – the Beverly Hills Hotel was costing him an arm and a leg.