pay one's dues
pay (one's) dues
1. Literally, to pay the requisite fees to enter into or remain in an organization. If you don't pay your dues every month, they will rescind your membership without warning.
2. By extension, to work hard, gain the necessary skills or experience, or suffer hardships (in order to earn a position, set of rights, the respect of others, etc.). I paid my dues working in the warehouse for 10 years before I got this job in the head office.
3. To serve the sentence given to one upon conviction of a crime. He paid his dues in the eyes of the law, so he shouldn't be facing any further punishment for his past crimes. A: "We can't re-hire you—you're a criminal!" B: "Hey, I spent nearly 15 years in prison. I've paid my dues!"
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
pay one's dues
Earn something through hard work, long experience, or suffering. For example, She'd paid her dues in small-town shows before she finally got a Broadway part. This expression transfers the cost of being a paid-up member in an organization to that of gaining experience in an endeavor. [Mid-1900s]
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.
pay one’s duesverb
pay one’s dues
tv. to serve one’s time in a menial role. (see also pay one’s dues (to society).) I spent some time as a bus boy, so I’ve paid my dues in the serving business.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.