A Dime a Dozen – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Idiomatic expressions sound silly sometimes, but they help us convey ideas and concepts more vividly and, often, in a more relatable way. One of my favorite idioms is “a dime a dozen,” a phrase we use to describe something basic, common, or easily acquired.

So, let’s talk about the meaning and the best usage of this phrase, so you can use it knowing you’re applying it correctly.

Dime a Dozen Meaning

A Dime a Dozen Idiom Origin Meaning

The idiomatic phrase “a dime a dozen” is meant to show that something is super common, easily obtainable, or available in large quantities. The English language often uses it to describe things or situations with little value or are considered unremarkable because of their abundance.

A great example of this nowadays would be YouTubers, in my opinion. The internet is so accessible, and anyone can create a YouTube channel now. My kids watch it more than regular TV.

Is a Dime a Dozen Good or Bad?

Whether being “a dime a dozen” is good or bad depends on the context you’re planning on using it for. In some cases, it can be taken as negative because it implies that something’s unremarkable or no big deal.

But then, it can also be used to highlight the abundance or accessibility of a particular item or situation, which can be viewed as a positive attribute.

  • Negative: Pyramid schemes are a dime a dozen.
  • Positive: Good people are a dime a doze.

A Dime a Dozen Origin

A Dime a Dozen Ngram
A dime a dozen usage trend.

The actual dime in US currency wasn’t created until the late 1700s, so the saying didn’t come around until after that. Stores would have weekly flyer sales and advertise items at a literal price of a dime for one dozen, like a dozen eggs or a dozen cookies. I think that’s where the phrase “cheaper by the dozen” came from, as well.

One of the earliest printed sources using the phrase figuratively was in 1931 from a paper called The Northern Miner, and the excerpt read, “‘Carners,’ the old-timer said, ‘is just an overgrown clown. As for the others–Schaof, Baer, Paulino, Risko, Campolo–they’re nothing but ‘dime a dozen fighters.’”

What Is the Opposite of a Dime a Dozen?

The opposite of “a dime a dozen” would be something that conveys rarity or high value. Things like “one of a kind” or “scarce as a hen’s teeth” are great examples.

A Dime a Dozen Synonyms

  • Commonplace
  • Abundant
  • Plentiful
  • Ubiquitous
  • Unremarkable
  • Ordinary
  • Run-of-the-mill

A Dime a Dozen Examples in a Sentence

A Dime a Dozen Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • These days, smartphones are a dime a dozen, with almost too many models and brands to choose from.
  • Talented singers are a dime a dozen these days, with platforms like American Idol and The Voice.
  • Fast-food restaurants seem to be a dime a dozen in my town, but there’s literally only one healthy fast-food option, and that’s Subway.
  • Don’t bother with Dan’s new book; it offers a dime a dozen pieces of advice that can be found in any self-help publication.
  • In the world of fashion, trends come and go, and most styles become a dime a dozen as they gain popularity with younger generations.

That’s a Wrap

So the next time you need to convey that something is really abundant, or even when there seems to be too much of something, just use the common idiom and say it’s a dime a dozen, and most people will know what you mean.

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