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The term nickel-and-dime has been in use since the 1800s, and is an interesting idiom. We will examine the definition of nickel-and-dime, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Nickel-and-dime has two basic meanings. First, nickel-and-dime is used as an adjective to describe something that is petty, something that is insignificant or something that operates on a small scale. Second, nickel-and-dime may be used as a verb to mean to continually charge someone small amounts of money to satisfy a certain situation. The idea is that the person is paying small, insignificant sums while over the long haul, these expenditures add up to a great deal of money. This is sometimes expressed as being nickel-and-dimed to death. Related words are nickel-and-dimes, nickel-and-dimed, nickel-and-diming, or the alternative renderings of nickels-and-dimes, nickeled-and-dimed, nickeling-and-diming. First used in the late 1800s to mean a small amount of money, nickle-and-dime took on its adjective and verbal definitions in the early 1900s. Note that the Oxford English Dictionary lists that the proper spelling contains two hyphens.


“Prior to that we were getting a lot of nickel-and-dime hustlers, as I call them, the lower drug dealers.” (The Daily Comet)

For the rest of us, it’s time we put up with nickel-and-dime fines to ensure that even more recyclables are, indeed, recycled instead of being tossed into the oceans. (The La Crosse Tribune)

Luxury lines, a growing segment in the cruise industry, like to brag that guests won’t feel nickel-and-dimed during vacation; when passengers meet for a drink or dine with new friends, they never have to be concerned about who pays. (The Miami Herald)