pound of flesh

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Shakepeare's The Merchant of Venice, in which Antonio literally owes a pound of his flesh to the moneylender Shylock.

Noun[edit]

pound of flesh (plural pounds of flesh)

  1. (idiomatic) Something which is owed and which will be hurtful or difficult to provide; a debt owed to someone who is merciless and demanding.
    • 1918, Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark, part 5, ch. 1,
      You must be under the impression that I'm one of these damned New England sharks that get their pound of flesh off the widow and orphan. If you're a little short, sign a note.
    • 2012, The Economist, 22nd Sep., Indian Reform: At Last
      [...] [Trinamool] Congress [Party] will need to strike deals with other regional allies, such as Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh. Their pound of flesh will be anti-reform, too.

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