Bad penny

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The term bad penny is derived from a proverb. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that particularly gives advice or shares a universal truth that is generally agreed upon. We will examine the meaning of bad penny, where the term came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A bad penny is a person or sometimes a thing that is unwelcome, someone or something that appears recurringly, seemingly because fate is taunting you. The presence of a bad penny is a personal vexation. The term bad penny is part of the proverb a bad penny always turns up. As often happens, the latter part of the proverb is usually dropped with the assumption that the proverb is so well known, the listener will fill in the ending. The proverb is derived from the occurence of actual counterfeit pennies, and their circulation. The term bad penny can be traced back as far as the 1300s.


Like a bad penny, the developers keep coming back with altered plans attempting to circumvent regulations which have prevented them from over-developing the property for years. (The Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

The Chatham Armory was another unexpected expense said County Attorney Jay Vaden Hunt “This has come back like a bad penny.” (The Chatham Star Tribune)

Like a bad penny that always turns up, Wichita County leaders face the challenge of resolving the county’s jail problems again in 2017. (The Times Record News)

Hot, burning tears made courtyard wells overflow as Manohar Parrikar resigned as Defence Minister and turned up like a bad penny in Goa to be chief minister again (without revealing how many good pennies he gave to small parties and independents to form the government, of course). (The National Herald India)