Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to free lunch: No free lunch
a free lunch
proverb A phrase that can be used to refer to anything given away for free. Of course, once you're signed up to the free program, you have to pay for all sorts of extra services to make it even worth using. There's no such thing as a free lunch, after all.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Fig. something of value that is free. (Often negative. See also There's no such thing as a free lunch.) There's always somebody who'll do anything to get a free lunch.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Something acquired without due effort or cost. For example, In politics there is no free lunch; every favor calls for repayment. This expression alludes to the custom of taverns offering food free of charge to induce customers to buy drinks. It was soon extended to other kinds of gift but is often used in a negative way, as in the example. [First half of 1800s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
n. something free. (Often negative.) There is no such thing as a free lunch.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
A gift or benefit for which no return is expected. This expression, dating from the early 1800s, alludes to the practice of taverns offering free food to their customers to induce them to buy more drinks. In today’s bars such offerings amount to little more than a bowl of peanuts or pretzels, if that, and indeed, figuratively the term is often used in a negative context—for example, “He’ll hardly offer you a job if you don’t contribute to his party; there’s no free lunch in political campaigns.” The economist Milton Friedman went even further, declaring “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” (attributed).
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer