This is a pretty funny one. This is one of those idioms that are easy to guess, yet difficult to guess right. Have you ever heard this in a conversation?
If not, you can be the first to use it in a conversation. It is an old term that had a different meaning. Its meaning has changed through the years of its existence.
This article is here to give you the meanings of ‘Dime a Dozen’ and 20 similar phrases or idioms.
Meaning and Origin of “Dime A Dozen”
If you have heard ‘Dime a Dozen’ in a conversation, you may already have an idea of what it means. It has two meanings.
A ‘Dime a Dozen’ may refer to a rarely good deal. It is similar to saying ‘One in a million’. In 1796, this phrase began as a form of advertisement.
Dime was used as slang for ‘ten’. Therefore, the phrase simply meant a person can pay for ten of the same product and get 12 of it.
That was definitely a good deal, then it became an idiom. When you compare a thing to a ‘dime a dozen’, then you would be implying that the thing is quite special. However, this meaning became cliché and is no longer correct.
A ‘Dime a dozen’ refers to something that is so common and no longer has a value. As mentioned earlier, the phrase started as an advertisement and it must have generated a lot of sales for whoever started the trend.
When it became a trend, it must have lost its value. Everyone must have adopted the same kind of advertisement giving two extra goods when payment is made for ten.
This soon stopped seeming like a promotion since the advertisement is everywhere. Virtually every product now sells for a dime a dozen.
In this case, when a new product is advertised as a dime a dozen, it will no longer be special to anyone.
20 Similar Phrases to “Dime A Dozen”
- One in a million
- A drop in a bucket
- A good deal
- Garden variety
- As amusing as watching paint dry
- Dry as dust
- Below the salt
- Nothing to write home about
- Fair to middling
- No great shakes
- As common as mud
- Status quo
- Dull as dishwater
- By the numbers
- Run of the mill
- Middle of the road
- Better than nothing
- As per usual
One in a million
This synonym is for the first meaning stated above. If ‘dime a dozen’ retained Its original meaning without becoming cliché, it could have been a great endearment term.
You can call your spouse a dime a dozen. It would mean that your spouse is a rare one. He or she is not something you can find everywhere. Your spouse is a great deal.
People often say ‘one in a million’ so you don’t need a lot of explanation for this. When you say your spouse is one in a million, you are saying he or she stands out from the crowd. You are saying your spouse is special and cannot be found everywhere.
While ‘one in a million’ refers to something or someone commendable and special, the new meaning of ‘dime a dozen’ refers to the opposite.
This is one word you can easily replace ‘dime a dozen’ with. Its literal meaning obviously doesn’t correlate with the meaning of ‘dime a dozen’. However, you can remove ‘dime a dozen’ and fix this word in several contexts.
When you say that something is a dime a dozen, you are saying it is not special because it is common. You can get it everywhere.
You can say to a person, ‘Men like him are a dime a dozen’. This implies that there is nothing special about the man since there are other men like him
Instead, you can say ‘Men like him are everywhere’.
A drop in a bucket
This idiom has two meanings. You can refer to an action as a drop in a bucket if it is ineffectual.
You can also refer to something or someone as a drop in a bucket to say the person or thing is not special because there are many others.
The first meaning refers to actions that are expected to produce an effect. You can compare this to an election where one voter gets angry and refuses to vote for a particular candidate.
Among millions of other voters, the decision of one voter may not matter.
You can also compare this to giving a small sum of money to a millionaire. It is like pouring a cup of water in an ocean. The amount added is just too little to have a meaning.
The second meaning refers to something that is many out there. It is like taking a cup of saltwater from the ocean and calling it special. The cup of water isn’t special since you can get a billion more from the ocean.
A good deal
This is the opposite of the ‘dime a dozen’ meaning we are focusing on. However, it is the same as the ancient meaning of ‘dime a dozen’.
You can say something is a good deal if you can see clear ways of gaining from it.
By saying a particular thing or a person is a good deal, you are implying that the person is special and you can’t find people like him or her everywhere.
If good deals were everywhere, then they would be normal rather than special.
‘Garden variety’ is another word for common. You can literally step in the garden and pluck ten more versions of what you are talking about.
When you say something is a garden variety, you are implying that there is nothing special about it.
Garden variety can refer to a thing. It may also refer to a person. It is exactly the same meaning as ‘dime a dozen’ so you can use both terms interchangeably.
Just as ‘dime a dozen’ may not be easy to interpret or understand, so is ‘garden variety’. When you say this, your listener may not know what the phrase means so you have to be prepared to explain the meaning of the phrase.
As amusing as watching paint dry
How amusing is it to watch paint dry? Of course, that would be as boring as hell. That is the point of this ironic idiom.
If you say something is a dime a dozen, it means it is not special, it is ordinary, and it is boring.
Instead of saying something is a dime a dozen, you can use this idiom instead. Not only is this funny and ironic but also very easy to understand.
It will not even be treated as an idiom. Your listener will understand immediately.
Dry as dust
Do you know what it means when they say a person is dry? You can say a joke is dry if it is not funny. You can also say a party is dry. ‘Dry’ literally refers to something very boring.
Nothing can be special or amusing and boring at the same time. Instead of saying ‘dime a dozen’, you can say ‘dry as dust’.
Below the salt
This is another idiom with the same meaning. The saying originated from medieval periods when salt was held at very high esteem.
According to the old customs, salt would be placed on the dining table. Respected people would sit above the level of the salt while commoners sit below the salt.
Therefore, when you say something or someone is below the salt, you are implying that the thing or the person is ordinary.
It is slightly different from ‘dime a dozen’ since the latter refers to things that are only of low value because they are common.
When you say something is day-to-day, you are implying that it is something you can come across daily. A day-to-day activity is something you do every day.
Things like that can no longer be considered special. If you do something every day, people will no longer be surprised to see you doing the same thing.
This is similar to saying ‘everywhere’. In the literal sense, it doesn’t have anything similar to ‘dime a dozen’ but it can replace the idiom in certain contexts and have the same meaning.
Nothing to write home about
When you say a place or something is nothing to write home about, virtually anyone can guess what this means. In a situation where you have to give updates, you will have no update to give if there is nothing new happening.
By saying a place is nothing to write home about, it means there is nothing special about the place and there are no stories to tell. You can also refer to things and even people.
Fair to middling
This idiom stands in the middle of the antonyms and synonyms of ‘dime a dozen’. It doesn’t mean the same as ‘dime a dozen’ but it doesn’t mean the opposite either.
When you say something is fair to middling, it simply means the thing is fair.
It means something can be managed. It is not special but it also isn’t worthless enough to be available everywhere.
No great shakes
When you say something is no great shakes, it means the things is not impressive. It is a fair synonym for ‘dime a dozen’.
You can use this interchangeably with ‘dime a dozen’ since it also refers to things that are considered ordinary.
However, if you are referring to something that is everywhere, this may not encompass the entire message you are willing to pass.
As common as mud
This encompasses the whole idea of ‘dime a dozen’. When you say something is as common as mud, you are saying that it is very easy to find and has no particular worth.
This is also very easy to understand. It is like simple English and can be interpreted literally.
This is neither a synonym not an antonym of ‘dime a dozen’. However, it refers to the situation of a person or thing.
‘Status quo’ means the current situation of things. Whether good or bad, it is the current reality and it has to be accepted by everyone. You can say ‘I am not really affected by the status quo’
Dull as dishwater
You can say a party is dull as dishwater. You can say this about a place that you consider boring. You can also say this about a person whom you consider boring.
This is quite easy to understand. It doesn’t necessarily mean that what you are referring to is easy to come by but you are saying it is not special.
By the numbers
Just like ‘status quo’ mentioned earlier, this is neither a synonym nor an antonym of ‘dime a dozen’. When you say something is by the numbers, it means it is following a set of rules.
You can say ‘I go by the numbers’. This means you are strictly following a set of rules.
Run of the mill
Run-of-the-mill refers to something that is not new or unusual. When you say a person or a thing is run-of-the-mill, you are implying that there is nothing fascinating about the person.
Middle of the road
Middle of the road, or middle-of-the-road, is the same as ‘Fair to middling’. This means that something is moderate or done moderately.
When you say something is middle-of-the-road, you are saying there is nothing special but in a polite manner.
Better than nothing
This refers to something fair or manageable. This may not refer to something that is everywhere. However, whatever you are referring to is not special either.
Rather, it may be slightly better than what is available everywhere.
As per usual
This is the meaning of ‘dime a dozen’. When something is as usual, no one will be interested since it’s not new. It will get the same reaction that every other ordinary deal gets.
Also, since it’s usual, the fascination is gone and it will be considered boring.