penny wise and pound foolish

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From the British currency (one penny being one hundredth of a pound or, prior to decimalisation, one 240th of a pound).


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penny wise and pound foolish (not generally comparable, comparative more penny wise and pound foolish, superlative most penny wise and pound foolish)

  1. (idiomatic) Prudent and thrifty with small amounts of money, but wasteful with large amounts.
    • 1942, Harry Elmer Barnes, Society in Transition: Problems of a Changing Age, page 122:
      In the past our government has nowhere been more penny wise and pound foolish than in connection with its expenditures for conservation.


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