Talk is cheap

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Talk is cheap is an idiom that has been in use since the 1800s, though its exact origin is not known. We will examine the meaning of the phrase talk is cheap, how it came into being, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The phrase talk is cheap means it is easier to talk about doing something than to actually do that thing. Many people say they will do something but never do it. The expression talk is cheap may be seen as a challenge to accomplish something, but it is usually a commentary that someone is not following through on a guarantee or promise. In other words, one may promise to accomplish any number of things, but the words mean nothing unless that person follows through and actually accomplishes those things. The phrase talk is cheap is an example of an idiom that was longer at one time. The population was so familiar with the second have of the idiom, it was seldom quoted. Today, the second half of the idiom has generally been forgotten. There were a number of idioms popular in the 1800s that began with the phrase talk is cheap. Some examples are talk is cheap but it takes money to buy a farm, talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whiskey, talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer. That last quote is attributed to P.T. Barnum in the 1850s. The source of the construction talk is cheap but…is attributed to the T.C. Haliburton book Attaché, published in 1843. It is likely that the phrase was in use before this time. The sentiment was expressed by John Bunyan in The Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love, or The Unsearchable Riches of Christ published in 1692: “I know words are cheap, but a dram of grace is worth all the world.” Today, the expression talk is cheap is often quoted, without the second half of any of the original idioms.


Talk is cheap, and teachers know a lot about cheap in Louisiana, because Louisiana has been a very cheap state when compensating teachers. (The Shreveport Times)

Which is hardly surprising, because talk is cheap and this film was made for practically nuppence ($20 million). (The Evening Standard)

“Talk is cheap now … we must now play,” said De Bruin, who handles the back division. (The Independent)

EMMA MHIC MHATHÚNA has told The Later Late Show that she is glad the government is listening to her but that “talk is cheap”. (The Journal)