rob Peter to pay Paul


rob Peter to pay Paul


  • to cause harm to one person in order to do good for another.
  • the transfer of money or resources that have been set aside for one purpose to another.
  • to solve a problem in a way that makes another problem worse.
  • to discharge one debt only to incur another.

Example Sentences

  1. I moved money from the college savings account to my main account so the debit would clear, robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  2. A “rob Peter to pay Paul” approach is not a sustainable way to handle your finances.
  3. When she borrowed money from one friend to pay her babysitter, she knew that she was robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  4. My mother told me to stop using my credit cards to pay my debts because I was just robbing Peter to pay Paul
  5. “This last year has been nothing but taking money from one budget to cover expenses in another,” she grumbled, “and how are we going to stay afloat if we’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul?”
  6. When her roommate once again begged her for a loan so he could pay his sister back, Lucy refused, telling him to stop robbing Peter to pay Paul.


The exact etymology of the phrase “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is not clear. Claims have been made that the idiom references taxes that were paid to the Church of Saint Peter at Westminster (now called Westminster Abbey) that were then funneled into repairs for St. Paul’s Cathedral in the mid-16th century. This may be the case, but the phrase has actually been in use since at least the mid-1400s.

It may also have its origins in Middle English as a grouping of common names with religious overtones, possibly refencing Saint Peter and Saint Paul because of the alliteration they represent, as well as both being martyred apostles of Christ. One expression referring to the apostles dates back to 12th-century Latin, that being “As if it were that one would crucify Paul in order to redeem Peter.”

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