king's ransom

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From the exceptionally high ransom demanded for the return of a kidnapped or captured king.

Noun[edit]

king's ransom (plural king's ransoms or kings' ransoms)

  1. (idiomatic) A very large sum of money.
    • 1825, Sir Walter Scott, The Talisman, ch. 12:
      "But to yonder pavilion . . . the moon is glimmering on the gilded ball which crowns its roof, and which is worth a king's ransom."
    • 1967 March 10, Archeology: An Ill-Starred Treasure Comes into Its Own (pictorial), LIFE, page 101:
      These gold, silver and pewter pieces are part of a king’s ransom of Spanish treasure salvaged from the sea off Florida where they had lain for 250 years.
    • 1986 March 24, Bernice Kanner, The Real James Bond: Jim Lebenthal’s Tax-Bill Crusade, New York, page 46:
      [] This commercial message is sponsored by Lebenthal in the heartfelt belief that we’re not the only ones who are going to miss the bonds when they’re gone and it costs a king’s ransom to turn on the lights, boil water, or haul the garbage.”
    • 2005, Michael R. Matthews, Colin F. Gauld, Arthur Stinner, The Pendulum: Its Place in Science, Culture and Pedagogy, Michael R. Matthews, Colin F. Gauld, Arthur Stinner (editors), The Pendulum: Scientific, Historical, Philosophical and Educational Perspectives, page 7:
      Solving longitude was one of the major preoccupations of European nations from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. King’s ransoms were offered for its solution.
    • 2010, Jane Feather, Rushed to the Altar, Pocket Books (2010), ISBN 9781439145241, page 386:
      Except that Clarissa Astley would not have been decked out in a king's ransom of diamonds.

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