Foot the bill

Foot the bill is an idiom that has been in use since the 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, cut the mustard, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, ankle biter, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom foot the bill, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Foot the bill means to pay for something, to be financially responsible for goods or services, especially when the amount owed is a large one. Often, the term foot the bill is used when someone is being generous or taking responsibility for an enormous debt. The idiom foot the bill is derived from an earlier idiom first used in the 1500s: foot up. This phrase meant to add up the figures on a document and come to a total at the foot of the bill. By the early 1800s, the phrase had morphed into today’s form, foot the bill, meaning to pay the total at the foot of the bill. Related phrases are foots the bill and footing the bill.


“And now, most Americans say that they will ultimately foot the bill from a widening trade war with China.” (Bloomberg)

Palestine: Leaked Documents Suggest Gulf Countries Will Foot the Bill for “Deal of Century’ (Morocco World News)

For now though, until buyers and sellers can agree how to get the tainted oil out of Druzhba – and who will foot the bill – the pipeline is set to remain shut. (The Indian Express)

There are a few charges that you may have to foot the bill for such as leaving your tenancy early. (The Sun)

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