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Alternative forms




Abbreviation of halfpennyworth.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈheɪpə(ɹ)θ/, (dialectally) /ˈeɪpə(ɹ)θ/
  • Audio (UK):(file)



ha'p'orth (plural ha'p'orth or ha'p'orths) (UK, Ireland, dated)

  1. A halfpennyworth; the amount that can be bought for a halfpenny.
    • 1729, Jonathan Swift, A Pastoral Dialogue, written after the News of the King’s Death:
      At an old stubborn Root I chanc’d to tug,
      When the Dean threw me this Tobacco-plug:
      A longer ha’p’orth never did I see;
      This, dearest Sheelah, thou shalt share with me.
    • 1838, Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby:
      ‘Mighty fine certainly,’ said Ralph, with great testiness. ‘When I first went to business, ma’am, I took a penny loaf and a ha’porth of milk for my breakfast as I walked to the city every morning; what do you say to that, ma’am? Breakfast! Bah!’
    • circa 1880, William Makepeace Thackeray, Roundabout Papers
      You rascal thief! it is not merely three-ha’p’orth of sooty fruit you rob me of, it is my peace of mind.
    • 1997, H. W. Fowler, Modern English Usage:
      Halfpennyworth is best spelt and pronounced ha’p’orth.
  2. (informal) A small amount.
    • 2003, Anton Chekhov, Ward No. 6:
      It’s very simple. Not because our people are ignorant and ungrateful, as you always explained it to yourself, but because in all your fads, if you’ll excuse the word, there wasn’t a ha’p’orth of love and kindness!
    • 1887, C. Stansfeld-Hicks, Yachts, Boats and Canoes:
      A well-built and handsome boat is worth varnishing, and it would be a pity to “spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar”.
  3. (slang) A foolish person.
    • 1973, “Happy Birthday Arkwright”, in Open All Hours (Season 4) (TV script):
      Not that, you ha'p'orth.
    • 2000, Diary (16 Feb 2000) Frank Dobson (or possibly not) in The Guardian read at [1]
      Mrs Dobson shouted: “Put on your anorak, Frank, you daft ha’p’orth, the maroon one I fetched you for your 60th, or you’ll catch your death.”
    • 2011, Barbara Nadel, Sure and Certain Death, →ISBN:
      'Oh well,' Mrs Darling said as she looked at the scene unfolding on the doorstep, 'at least the silly ha'p'orth didn't go to the wrong place.'

Usage notes

  • Use in the colloquial British sense of “a foolish person” is usually modified with an adjective such as daft or silly.

Derived terms