rob Peter to pay Paul

Idioms & Phrases

rob Peter to pay Paul

Take from one to give to another, shift resources. For example, They took out a second mortgage on their house so they could buy a condo in Floridathey're robbing Peter to pay Paul. Although legend has it that this expression alludes to appropriating the estates of St. Peter's Church, in Westminster, London, to pay for the repairs of St. Paul's Cathedral in the 1800s, the saying first appeared in a work by John Wycliffe about 1382.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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