bad penny

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bad penny (plural bad pennies)

  1. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see bad,‎ penny: A counterfeit or damaged penny.
  2. (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.

Derived terms[edit]


  • Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987-1996.