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Definition of Idiomatic Expressions


What does a bad penny mean?

Meaning of idioms with examples...

a bad penny


The phrase a bad penny refers to a person or thing which is unpleasant, dishonorable, or unwanted that is likely to reappear, particularly at inconvenient times.

The phrase a bad penny is usually used in the proverb:

A bad penny always turns up.

The origin of the phrase

The phrase 'a bad penny always turns up' is a very old saying. It is worthwhile noting that pennies were ripe targets for counterfeiters. When people discovered that those counterfeited pennies had reached their pockets, the only solution available was to try to spend them as quickly as possible. But because everyone was trying to get rid of those 'bad pennies', the chance of encountering the very same one you had spent earlier was quite high. Accordingly, the phrase 'bad penny' became an expression referring to an unpopular or undesired thing or person that keeps reappearing.


We thought we wouldn't see John again after what he did, but he showed up at the party - a bad penny always turns up.

This idiom is in the money category

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