From pretty (“(dated) moderately large, considerable”) + penny (“money in general”).
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˌpɹɪti ˈpɛni/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˌpɹɪti ˈpɛni/, [-ɾi-]
Audio (AU) (file)
- Rhymes: -ɛni
- Hyphenation: pret‧ty pen‧ny
pretty penny (plural pretty pennies)
- (idiomatic, informal) Chiefly preceded by a: a considerable amount of money; a high income or price.
- Synonyms: an arm and a leg, (archaic) fair penny, (archaic) fine penny, fortune
- They could charge a pretty penny as they had a captive audience.
- 1709 (date written), Susanna Cent-livre, The Man’s Bewitch’d; or, The Devil to Do about Her. A Comedy, […], Dublin: […] J. Jones, for George Ewing, […], published 1737, →OCLC, Act I, page 12:
- VVhy here may be a pretty Penny tovvards, if the Devil don't croſs it.
- 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, “A Chapter of Match-making”, in The History of Pendennis. […], volume II, London: Bradbury and Evans, […], published 1850, →OCLC, page 350:
- We shall have our branch line—our shares are up, sir—and we buy your three fields along the Brawl, and put a pretty penny into your pocket, Mr. Pendennis.
- 1860, George Eliot [pseudonym; Mary Ann Evans], “Tom’s ‘First Half’”, in The Mill on the Floss […], volume I, Edinburgh; London: William Blackwood and Sons, →OCLC, book II (School-time), page 256:
- [E]verything's as nice as can be all over the house, and that watered-silk she had on cost a pretty penny.
- 1885, Bret Harte, chapter I, in Maruja, Boston, Mass.; New York, N.Y.: Houghton, Mifflin and Company […], →OCLC, page 16:
- "Then the Captain might still make a pretty penny on Amita," said the Scotchman.
- 1906, John Galsworthy, “James at Large”, in The Man of Property, London: William Heinemann, →OCLC, part I, page 87:
- He didn't know—he expected she was spending a pretty penny on dress.
- 1915, W[illiam] Somerset Maugham, chapter LXXIII, in Of Human Bondage, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, →OCLC, page 377:
- "It must have cost you a pretty penny. It's lucky you can afford it." / "I can't," said Philip. "But what do I care!"
- 1991, Robert Wyatt; Alfreda Benge (lyrics and music), “Shrinkrap”, in Dondestan:
- It costs a pretty penny / Just to stay afloat / It takes a lot of lolly / Trying to be jolly
- 2007 April 30, Barbara Kiviat, “Stephen Schwarzman”, in Time, New York, N.Y.: Time Warner Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2008-12-09:
- [Stephen Allen] Schwarzman's firm makes a pretty penny in a number of finance fields, including real estate and hedge funds, yet carries the most heft for its work in private equity—a force that is remaking corporate America and spreading its influence overseas.
considerable amount of money
- “a pretty (also fine, fair, etc.) penny” under “penny, n.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2022.
- “a pretty penny, phrase”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
- “a pretty penny, n.”, in Collins English Dictionary.
- “a pretty penny, n.”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.