Buy a lemon

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Buy a lemon is used as an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom buy a lemon, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To buy a lemon means to purchase something that is worthless, broken, unsatisfactory, not of its purported value, or disappointing. Often, the word lemon is applied to a new car or other mechanical device that never works properly. However, anything that doesn’t live up to its reputation or does not meet expectations can be considered a lemon. In many countries, lemon laws protect consumers who buy a lemon or purchase a new vehicle that turns out to work improperly, because it is reasonable to expect a new item work. The idiom buy a lemon seems to have originated in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century. Why lemon?A lemon is a small, oval, yellow citrus fruit that is tart. Many theories point to the lemon’s tartness and the ease with which one may squeeze the juice out of it.


No one wants to buy a lemon that breaks down for good after less than 50,000 miles. (USA Today)

But all hard drives die, and it’s still possible to buy a lemon that will die too soon. (New York Times)

Maybe a previous purchase went horribly wrong — we bought a car that turned out to be a lemon, for example, and couldn’t afford to replace it.  (Tampa Bay Times)