Pay Through the Nose – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Pay through the nose is an idiom that means paying an exorbitant or excessively high price for something. Can you visualize gold coins tumbling out of your nostrils? Yeah, neither can I. But this odd-sounding idiom certainly does grab your attention, which is the whole point! The origin of this curious expression is a blend of folklore, history, and a touch of speculation.

An idiom, by definition, is a phrase or expression whose meaning cannot be taken directly from the words it contains. These figures of speech enrich the English language, infusing conversations with nuance and cultural context. Their ability to succinctly encapsulate complex ideas makes idioms so integral to how we communicate.

If you’re wondering how our noses became synonymous with overpriced transactions or are simply fascinated by the vibrant tapestry of idioms that color the English language, keep reading. Dive deeper into its history and usage, and perhaps, understand why we pay through the nose, but thankfully, not literally!

Pay Through the Nose Idiom Meaning

Pay Through the Nose – Idiom Meaning and Origin

Simply put, when you pay through the nose for something, you’re paying an excessive or high price. It’s the sticker shock you feel when you see the price of a designer purse or the bill after a fancy dinner where you didn’t check the menu prices.

For me, it’s my credit card bill at the end of every month, and I see just how much money I spend on special edition books. They’re pretty, though!

Origin and Etymology of Paying Through the Nose

Pay Through the Nose Ngram
Pay through the nose usage trend.

Tracing the origins of idioms can be challenging, and “paying through the nose” is no exception. While various theories exist, some are more likely than others.

One popular theory suggests a connection to the Danes in the 9th century. As the story goes, they imposed hefty taxes on the Irish. Those Irishmen who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—pay supposedly faced the grim punishment of having their noses slit. As compelling as this tale is, solid historical evidence to support this as the definitive origin is lacking.

Another proposed origin connects the phrase to the high cost of nasal surgeries. While this theory might align more with modern sensibilities, it seems unlikely, given that the idiom predates the era of cosmetic surgery as we know it.

An intriguing suggestion revolves around the word “rhino.” During the 17th century, “rhino” was slang for money. Interestingly, “rhino” also derives from the Greek word for nose. This linguistic connection presents a tantalizing potential origin, but again, definitive proof remains elusive.

Whatever its true genesis, one thing is clear: the idiom “paying through the nose” has deep roots, showcasing the rich tapestry of the English language.

Pay Through the Nose Synonyms

Here are some other ways to express paying a high price for something.

  • Fork over a fortune
  • Pay an arm and a leg
  • Pay top dollar
  • Sell your firstborn child
  • Shell out big bucks
  • Cough up a hefty sum

Using Pay Through the Nose in a Sentence

Pay Through the Nose – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • I paid through the nose for that limited-edition book by my favorite author, but seeing it sitting on my shelf like a trophy is worth it.
  • If you wait until the last minute to buy tickets to Taylor Swift, you’ll end up paying through the nose even more.
  • My brother always pays through the nose for the latest tech gadgets.
  • We decided to skip the fancy resort; they make you pay through the nose for basic amenities.
  • After the mishap at the regular salon, Mom had to pay through the nose at a premium one to fix her curly hair.
  • I heard Dad paid through the nose for that vintage car at the auction, and Mom’s going to freak out.
  • It’s a luxury brand, Vanessa. Of course, you’ll be paying through the nose.
  • If you dine at that new rooftop restaurant, expect to pay through the nose, but the view is breathtaking.
  • I’d rather travel in the offseason than pay through the nose during peak tourist times.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, idioms like pay through the nose give us the tools to make our conversations and writing far more interesting and relatable. Play around with this one and see where you can use it! Pair it with one of our other idioms and really things up!