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The meaning and origin of the expression: Throw good money after bad

Throw good money after bad

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Throw good money after bad'?

You 'throw good money after bad' when, following the loss of some money, you to incur a further loss in trying to make good.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Throw good money after bad'?

When I heard 'throw good money after bad' in a radio play recently I wondered about the meanings of 'good money' and 'bad money'. In our 21st century culture surely any money is as good as any other?

Throw good money after badI guessed that the expression dated from the days when the coinage in England (and this phrase is English in origin) was corrupted by unscrupulous people clipping or filing metal from the edges. Some coins became so degraded as to become worthless and could easily have been labelled as 'bad money'.

As it turns out my guess was off the mark. The expression 'good money after bad' wasn't a comparison between newly minted and clipped coins but a reference to money lost in some venture, that is, the 'bad money', and money that one might use to make up the loss - the 'good money'. Examples of throwing good money after bad might be betting on one big long-odds win on the horses after losing most of one's money in previous races, or spending money on an old banger of a car that had had work done on it but is still unroadworthy.

In proverbial form 'don't throw good money after bad' is advice that, after losing your money on a poor investment, you should cut your losses and keep your remaining money safe in your pocket.

The first example that I can find in print is in the American newspaper The Maryland Gazette, January 1765 in a letter between two Indian gentlemen, one of whom advises the other not to attempt to recover money from someone who had defaulted on a loan:

[If you don't chase the money] ... thou wilt not run the hazard of fresher losses, by throwing good money after bad.

The above citation notwithstanding, the phrase originated in England in the 18th century. All of the other early examples in print come from English sources and the Indian author of the letter above was referred to as a Gentoo, that is one of the ruling class, and, being English speaking, he was probably educated in England.

See other 'Don't...' proverbs:

Don't cast your pearls before swine

Don't change horses in midstream

Don't count your chickens before they are hatched

Don't get mad, get even

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face

Don't keep a dog and bark yourself

Don't let the cat out of the bag

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

Don't put the cart before the horse

Don't shut the stable door after the horse has bolted

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

Don't try to teach your Grandma to suck eggs

Don't upset the apple-cart

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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