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free lunch

food provided without charge in some bars and saloons to attract customers.
Informal. something given with no expectation of repayment, service, responsibility, etc.:
In politics there's no free lunch—everyone expects favors to be repaid.
Origin of free lunch
1835-45 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for free-lunch
Historical Examples
  • The nasty gutter was still filled with cigar-ends and puddles of beer and bits of free-lunch cheese.

    The Trail of the Hawk Sinclair Lewis
  • The free-lunch man on the corner told me where you were, quick.

  • You had better go down to the free-lunch counter at the saloon, and have a good square meal.

    Witch Winnie Elizabeth W. Champney
  • So hey for the wicker demi-john and the free-lunch brand of grub!

    Rippling Rhymes Walt Mason
  • The young man flirted a thumb in the direction of the free-lunch counter.

    Local Color Irvin S. Cobb
  • The odd jobs about saloons which are usually done for beer-payment he performed under the inspiration of the free-lunch counter.

    To Him That Hath Leroy Scott
  • He thought first of a free-lunch saloon, but he had an objection to using the fork just laid down by another man.

    The Wolf's Long Howl Stanley Waterloo
  • The free-lunch for delicate palates was kept in a closet of turbid glass close to the counter.

    The Cabin Vicente Blasco Ibez
  • I wanted to call to him that he was welcome to eat at my free-lunch counter, when it occurred to me that I was in plain sight.

    Wild Life on the Rockies Enos A. Mills
  • For three days I tried to feed him up on the retail plan, and then I let out the contract to a free-lunch supply concern.

    Shorty McCabe Sewell Ford
Slang definitions & phrases for free-lunch

free lunch

noun phrase

Something had without paying for it; an uncompensated pleasure; a perquisite or gratuity •The date shows the first occurrence of the saloon-food sense mentioned in the etymology: pushing the free lunch

Related Terms

there's no free lunch

[1854+; fr the former custom of giving customers free food called free lunch in saloons]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with free-lunch

free lunch

Something acquired without due effort or cost. For example, In politics there is no free lunch; every favor calls for repayment. This expression alludes to the custom of taverns offering food free of charge to induce customers to buy drinks. It was soon extended to other kinds of gift but is often used in a negative way, as in the example. [ First half of 1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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