make a killing

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make a killing (third-person singular simple present makes a killing, present participle making a killing, simple past and past participle made a killing)

  1. (idiomatic) To win or earn a large amount of money.
    • 1913, Rex Ellingwood Beach, The Iron Trail: An Alaskan Romance, ch. 5:
      "Now if they were playing faro I could make a killing."
    • 2009, Tom Huddleston, "What's all the fuss about 'Slumdog Millionaire'?," Time, 17 Jan.:
      Danny Boyle's critical darling 'Slumdog Millionaire' has made a killing at the box office and is now being lavished with awards.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The term was used in the literal sense by American bison hunters to describe the act of shooting a large number of buffalo in a short period of time:
1907, John R. Cook, The Border and the Buffalo, Citadel Press (1967), page 118 (describing events occurring in the 1870s):
Buck said if I would stay with him he would make a killing as long as it would pay to stay; said he would give me 30 cents apiece for all the buffaloes I would skin and peg out.