Robbing Peter to Pay Paul – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you thinking about taking out a second credit card to pay off the first one’s balance? If so, you’re “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

This idiom describes shifting your debts from one person to another or one entity to another to settle your finances. The saying defines idiotic behavior, and most people use it in a somewhat unbecoming manner.

This post looks at the meaning and origin of the saying, and we’ll use it in a few sentences to give you an idea of how to place it in a conversation.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Meaning

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul is a popular saying, and if you hear someone referencing it to your behavior, it’s not a good thing.

They are essentially telling you that you’re making a financial mistake. Robbing Peter to pay Paul typically refers to economic behavior. Still, it can also refer to the transfer of goods and services, passing off the immediate responsibility of settling an account.

The phrase also refers to the shuffling around of money to avoid paying interest or preventing a creditor from getting angry at you for not paying them back. It’s an unfortunate practice that ends in disaster.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Example Usage

Here are a few examples of how to use the idiom, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

  • He took out that second credit card against my advice. Essentially, he’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • By taking that second mortgage to pay your debts, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • He took an apple to give to his friend to pay for the orange. Now he owes for the apple; he’s just robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • A robbing Peter to pay Paul approach to politics doesn’t make any sense.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Origin

The idiom, “rob Peter to pay Paul,” first emerged as a proverb in 1450. There are some old documents referencing this idiom to the finances between St. Paul’s cathedral and St. Peter’s Cathedral.

The two cathedrals shared in each other’s finances, leading to monetary disputes between the religious entities and their leadership.

It’s thought that the names Peter and Paul came from the names of the apostles featured in the cathedrals titles.

Phrases Similar to Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Here are a few examples of similar phrases to robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  • From one to another.
  • Shuffling your finances.
  • Give and take.

Phrases Opposite to Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Some of the phrases with the opposite meaning to robbing Peter to pay Paul are the following.

  • Settling your debts.
  • Don’t overextend yourself.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • Robs Peter to pay Paul.
  • Robbed Peter to pay Paul.
  • Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Ways People May Say Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Incorrectly

Some people may use the phrase robbing Peter to Pay Paul in the wrong context. Typically, the saying doesn’t refer to the act of robbing someone. It involves the loaning of money. So saying that someone physically stole from someone else to settle a debt would be an incorrect use of the term.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

When you’re using the phrase robbing Peter to pay Paul, you’re talking about the transference of debt from one party to another.

However, you also refer to the intention of paying it back. Hence, there is no physical robbery taking place. The “robbery” theme in the saying refers to the person lending the money, as they are essentially robbing themselves of their financial prosperity, enslaving themselves to debt.

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