King’s ransom

The idiom a king’s ransom has been in use for hundreds of years. 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 that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, piece of cake, hit the sack, 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 a king’s ransom, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

A king’s ransom is an enormous amount of money, a sum of money that is exceedingly large. The idiom a king’s ransom is used today to mean that one has paid a large amount for something. Like many idioms, the phrase a king’s ransom is derived from a literal meaning. In the Middle Ages, captives or prisoners of war were often ransomed for their freedom. In most cases, the only person rich enough to pay the ransom was the king. The idea is that an outrageous sum was demanded in exchange for the captive–a king’s ransom. The idiom came into use by the early 1500s.


He was upset that Jets general manager Joe Douglas listened to calls about him before the Oct. 29 trade deadline, but the Jets were asking for a king’s ransom from the Cowboys. (Newsday)

Tough although it may be, the Indians deal Francisco Lindor for a king’s ransom that improves the lineup’s depth. (Forbes Magazine)

“Adam Neumann will essentially get a king’s ransom for grossly mismanaging the company on his way out,” said Amy Borrus, deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors. (The Washington Post)

But if one employee’s tweet is all it takes to blow up the deal, and suddenly cut off that king’s ransom of future profits, the Chinese market just isn’t worth it. (The National Review)

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