Pound of flesh

Pound of flesh is an idiom that 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, kick the bucket, 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 pound of flesh, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

A pound of flesh is recompense that one may legally be entitled to, but is a hardship on the one who must pay the recompense. Someone who exacts his pound of flesh is considered ruthless, inhumane, or unreasonable. The idiom a pound of flesh comes from the play Merchant of Venice, produced by William Shakespeare in 1596. In the play, a literal pound of flesh must be extracted from a character to satisfy a debt.


“I honestly believe this president has not gotten his pound of flesh yet from past grievances on the 2016 investigation,” said Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser. (The Associated Press)

Sensing a losing battle, Tanwar on Wednesday preferred to take Hooda’s way to coax the party into getting his pound of flesh. (The Deccan Herald)

If the Brexit Party held the balance of power after an election, what would the kingmaker’s pound of flesh be? (Reuters)

But it is tragic that most senior leaders are interested in only extracting their pound of flesh instead of offering collective support to stabilise the sinking ship. (The Telegraph India)

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