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a bad penny

A person with no value. Typically used in the proverb "A bad penny always turns up." A: "I don't think we'll see Todd again now that he's been disgraced at work." B: "You never know—a bad penny always turns up." I'm sure we haven't seen the last of your conniving cousin—a bad penny always comes back, after all. You can always count on Luke to turn up like a bad penny and make everything worse.
See also: bad, penny

a pretty penny

A large amount of money. A fancy car like that costs a pretty penny, so I definitely can't afford it! Wow, Alex must have paid a pretty penny for a house in a gated community. That bracelet she bought on a whim today sure cost a pretty penny—she must be loaded.
See also: penny, pretty


informal The sum of one's available money. I didn't have a penny back in college. I survived off of rice, beans, and plain pasta for weeks at a time. We put every penny we had into this business. I don't know what we'll do if it doesn't succeed.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.


n. a police officer. (A play on copper. See the note at copper.) The penny over on the corner told the boys to get moving.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.