Talk Is Cheap – Know The Difference Between Words and Action

Photo of author

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.

Talk is cheap means that words alone are not enough; actions are needed to prove them. This idiom is a stark reminder that promises or statements without action hold little value. It emphasizes the importance of action over mere words.

Idioms, such as talk is cheap, are expressions or phrases that carry a figurative meaning beyond the literal interpretation of their individual words. They’re essential to the English language because they help break up monotony in our words while helping us remember historical contexts.

However, an idiom only works when used correctly. Therefore, my guide covers the phrase’s true meaning, origin, contextual usage, and related words and expressions. Additionally, there’s a quick quiz at the end for you! Let’s break down this English language idiom, shall we?

Talk Is Cheap – Know The Difference Between Words and Action 1

What Does the Idiom Talk Is Cheap Mean?

The idiom talk is cheap means you don’t believe what someone tells you; you need some kind of proof or action to back it up. Merriam-Webster simplifies it even further, stating that it’s “used to mean that it is easy to say that one will do something.”

You can use the expression to let someone know that speaking about doing something is easier than actually doing it. It helps to express skepticism about someone’s promises or statements, suggesting that actions will prove more than words ever could.

Growing up, my dad always said he’d take us to Disney World. Every year around a birthday or the holidays, he’d say, “Maybe next Christmas I’ll take you to Disney World!”

Finally, in my early teens, I looked at him and said, “Talk is cheap, Dad. Put your money where your mouth is.” We flew to Orlando and spent one glorious week at Disney! If I’d known that was all it took, I would have said something sooner!

Literal Meaning vs. Figurative Meaning

The literal meaning of the idiom talk is cheap is that words or verbal communication are easy to produce or inexpensive. In a literal sense, it suggests that speaking or making promises doesn’t require much effort or cost.

However, the idiom is commonly used in a figurative sense to convey the idea that actions speak louder than words, emphasizing the importance of deeds and tangible results over mere verbal expression.

Variations of the Idiom

Have you ever heard a variation of the phrase talk is cheap? There aren’t many, but I’ve stumbled upon a few over the years. In the end, they all mean the same thing, so feel free to use either if the context allows.

  • Words are cheap
  • Cheap talk
  • Chit-chat is cheap

How Is Talk Is Cheap Commonly Used in Context?

The idiom talk is cheap holds a universal truth—emphasizing the importance of actions over mere words.

Dive into the following sections to understand the different ways this idiom can be effectively employed, glean tips for its apt usage, and discover real-life examples that illustrate the significance of backing words with actions.

What Are the Different Ways to Use Talk Is Cheap?

  • In business: To emphasize the importance of results over plans or promises. “Our competitors have announced many plans for updates to the software, but talk is cheap. Let’s show them the results.”
  • When dating: When someone’s promises repeatedly fall short of their actions. “Troy always promises to change and treat me better, but talk is cheap. It’s time to see the proof in his words.”
  • In other relationships: If a friend or family member can’t be trusted to stick to their words. “Look, Mom, I want to believe you, but you never follow through. Talk is cheap, and I need you to start proving it to me.”

What Are Some Tips for Using Talk Is Cheap Effectively?

  • Use the idiom to motivate action or highlight the need for tangible results.
  • It’s a powerful reminder to look for concrete evidence in negotiations or commitments.
  • Avoid using it in situations where communication is key and action is not immediately required.
  • Don’t use it to dismiss someone who’s genuinely telling the truth.

Where Can You Find Examples of Talk Is Cheap?

This phrase is so common that I can’t even imagine listing all the instances of it used in film, books, and music.

But it is the name of a popular song by Chet Faker, an Australian singer-songwriter. It’s also a phrase used in one of my all-time favorite bookish quotes, ripped right from Jeaniene Frost’s paranormal romance Bones: “The last thing that you need to fret about is my feeling emasculated, Kitten; but talk is cheap, so I’ll be sure to show you later.”

It’s also used in various online publications, including:

“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)

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Talk Is Cheap?

Talk Is Cheap Ngram
Talk is cheap usage trend.

The idiom talk is cheap originated from American culture in the 19th century, reflecting a societal emphasis on the value of actions over words. One of the earliest uses of it in print was back in 1843 when T.C. Haliburton wrote it in The Attaché.

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.”

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

The idiom has maintained its original meaning over time, consistently used to convey the message that actions speak louder than words.

What Are Some Related Terms to Talk Is Cheap?

Synonyms and antonyms are like colorful sprinkles that you can add to conversations or your writing. Instead of using the same word or phrase repeatedly, mix things up with a synonym or two!

Talk Is Cheap – Know The Difference Between Words and Action 2


  • Action speaks louder than words
  • Put your money where your mouth is
  • Walk the talk
  • Prove it
  • Show me
  • Empty promises
  • Lip service
  • All talk, no action
  • Words mean nothing


These are for when you wish to state the opposite of talk is cheap.

  • I believe you
  • No truer words have been spoken
  • If you say so

Talk Is Cheap: Test Your Knowledge!

Choose the correct answer.

What Have We Learned About Talk Is Cheap?

Talk is cheap is more than just an idiom; it’s a principle that underscores the value of action over words. In a world of broken promises and social media influencers claiming they actually use the products they endorse, this phrase serves as a reminder to value deeds over declarations.

Now that we’ve covered all the details about this idiom, I hope my examples have helped you understand how to use this idiom better. I’ve got hoards of idiomatic breakdowns like this one on our site, so be sure to spend some time going through them!