Go for a song

The idiom go for a song has been in use at least since Shakespeare’s time. We will examine the meaning of the idiom go for a song, from where this expression is derived, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To go for a song means to be sold be little money, to be bought or sold for much less than the item is worth. The idiom go for a song has been in use since at least the early 1600s, and probably longer. The idiom is found in William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well: “…I know a man that had this tricke of melancholy hold a goodly Mannor for a song.” Around this time, people would sing on the street for pennies. In addition, printed renditions of song ballads were sold at fairs for a very small amount. Both of these facts establish that songs were cheap and plentiful at the time. Related phrases are goes for a song, going for a song, went for a song.

Examples

Several analysts argue that much of the worth contained in their empire is linked to their political contacts, and that most of their assets will go for a song. (The Mail and Guardian)

The big car park that hosted a weekend market where knock-off DVDs and perfumes went for a song is now the site of “luxury apartments”. (The Guardian)

A Tour de France yellow jersey purportedly signed by seven-time winner Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of those titles in 2012, went for a song when auctioned at Sotheby’s in London last week – but the Texan’s reaction to the news was priceless. (Road CC Magazine)

Worth $5bn, Beatles catalogue went for a song (The Sydney Morning Herald)