Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
- Used other than as an idiom: see bad, penny: A counterfeit or damaged penny.
- (idiomatic) A person or thing which is unpleasant, disreputable, or otherwise unwanted, especially one which repeatedly appears at inopportune times.
1916, Gilbert Parker, chapter 4, in The World For Sale:
- "Felix Marchand'll have much money—bad penny as he is," continued Christine in her normal voice.
1918, Rex Ellingwood Beach, chapter 17, in The Winds of Chance:
- Pierce remembered Hilda's prophecy that her indigent husband would turn up, like a bad penny.
- 1975 June 9, R. Z. Sheppard, "Springtime for Mosley (book review)," Time:
- But as the perennial bad penny of British political life, he keeps turning up at embarrassing moments.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.
- Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987-1996.