The idiom rob Peter to pay Paul goes back at least 600 years, and possibly longer. We will look at the meaning of the phrase rob Peter to pay Paul, where it comes from and some examples of its use in sentences.
To rob Peter to pay Paul means to take take money from one source to give it to another. Usually, robbing Peter to pay Paul means taking the money one would pay off one debt to pay off another debt, it is a situation where there is not enough money to go around and one must choose which debt is more urgently in need of payment. The idiom rob Peter to pay Paul was considered a proverb in 1450, which points to an even older origin. There are several stories that link this idiom to a dynamic between the finances of St. Peter’s Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral, however, it is more likely that the names Peter and Paul were simply chosen because these two apostles are often linked. Related idioms are robs Peter to pay Paul, robbed Peter to pay Paul, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Note that both Peter and Paul are capitalized, as they are proper names.
“A ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ approach doesn’t make sense politically and it doesn’t make sense school funding wise,” Mr. Finley said. (The Wall Street Journal)
In a brave attempt to be honest with Bristol City fans, Lee Johnson admits he will more than likely have to rob Peter to pay Paul in the January transfer window. (The Bristol Post)
“Over the past five years, we have, let me put it plainly, robbed Peter to pay Paul, from our operating budget, to provide extra staffing, to provide supports needed for some of our special education students,” Hill said. (The Maryland Independent)