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#1
Old 06-15-2008, 11:36 AM
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Is it common to use "dear" as a synonym for "expensive"?

The English adjective dear is etymologically related to German teuer, which can mean both "dear" and "expensive", although the former meaning ("mein teurer Freund") is not very customary nowadays. It's the same for carus in Latin and cher in French.

In the Beatles song "When I'm Sixty-Four", there's the line

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ringo Starr
Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight if it's not too dear
I was quite surprised to hear that since I had never heard dear used in that meaning before. I looked it up in a dictionary, which included this usage but noted it as British. Is this customary in Britain, or anywhere else?
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#2
Old 06-15-2008, 11:39 AM
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I'm a 50 year old US midwesterner who has been familiar with the use of the word 'dear' to mean expensive since at least the 5th grade.

So take that for what it's worth.
#3
Old 06-15-2008, 11:41 AM
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58 year old Englishman who has used the word dear for expensive all my life, in common with all other English folks of my acquaintance.

And OED traces the usage as far back as 1044.

Quote:
6. a. Of a high price, high-priced, absolutely or relatively; costly, expensive: the opposite of cheap.

1044 O.E. Chron., On {edh}isum {asg}ere wæs swy{edh}e mycel hunger ofer eall Englaland and corn swa dyre..swa {th}æt se sester hwætes eode to LX pen. 1154 Ibid. an. 1137 §3 {Th}a was corn dære. c1320 Seuyn Sag. 3724 (W.) Than so bifell that corn was dere. 1375 BARBOUR Bruce XVIII. 283 This is the derrest beiff that I Saw euir {ygh}eit; for sekirly It cost ane thousand pund and mar. 1509 HAWES Past. Pleas. IV. xix, Nothynge I wanted, were it chepe or dere. 1595 SHAKES. John I. i. 153 Sell your face for fiue pence and 'tis deere. 1668 ROLLE Abridgment 40 He swore, that the Wood was worth 40s. where it was dear of 13s. 4d. 1745 De Foe's Eng. Tradesman (1841) II. xxxviii. 109 Our manufactures..may be dear, though low-priced, if they are mean in their value. 1857 RUSKIN Pol. Econ. Art ii. (1868) 89 Pictures ought not to be too dear, that is to say, not as dear as they are.
(Sorry about the characters that won't print in the early cites).

Last edited by aldiboronti; 06-15-2008 at 11:45 AM.
#4
Old 06-15-2008, 11:51 AM
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I've heard it used more often as an adverb--as in "He paid dearly for his mistake."
#5
Old 06-15-2008, 11:51 AM
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45 y/o from Midwest; I recognize it. That is, I wouldn't use it but I know that it also carries that meaning. If someone said, "He paid dearly for his mistake," it might not have anything to do with money, for instance.

But then, I was raised by parents who grew up during the Depression. I remember being teased for using words others didn't.

footstool=hassock
couch=davenport
etc.
#6
Old 06-15-2008, 11:52 AM
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33-year-old Midwesterner here. I've been familiar with the usage of "dear" to mean expensive for decades, and have used it in writing, but I'll admit that it's not a usage that occurs naturally in conversation.

...but I'd sooner use it in conversation than "spendy."
#7
Old 06-15-2008, 11:56 AM
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I think of it as a northern kind of thing - I heard it in Maine, I think. Not here in the South.
#8
Old 06-15-2008, 12:09 PM
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Its a pretty common usage in Scotland.
#9
Old 06-15-2008, 12:10 PM
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Thirty-something Brit - always used it - not just in English ... I use and hear "cher" for both meanings here in France and I'm pretty sure that my friends in Northern Italy do the same with "caro" (altho', again from memory I think expensive is always carO whereas dear to me depends on the gender of the person you're referring to caro/cara.).
#10
Old 06-15-2008, 12:14 PM
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One of my favorite quotes by Benjamin Franklin (as Poor Richard) is:

"Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other."
#11
Old 06-15-2008, 12:18 PM
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45 year old Canadian here. Very common.

Then again, I was born in Scotland.................................
#12
Old 06-15-2008, 02:52 PM
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Very common here too.
#13
Old 06-15-2008, 03:05 PM
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Even though I come from Scotsmen who used it when I was growing up .most Michiganders would think it an anachronism. They would think you were old for using it. The Beetles used it in song though.
#14
Old 06-15-2008, 03:09 PM
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Common throughout the English-speaking world, less so in US but usually recognized.

Same synonymism is used in French and Italian, FWIW.
#15
Old 06-15-2008, 03:37 PM
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Many older folk I know use the word dear as expensive all the time. I often thought it was an older persons thing. I use it sometimes but I think thats probably something Ive picked up from the older folks!
#16
Old 06-15-2008, 03:41 PM
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Its less common now than it used to be, definitely. I'm more apt to use it as an adverb than anything else.
#17
Old 06-15-2008, 04:06 PM
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Very common in the North West, where the Beatles came from.
#18
Old 06-15-2008, 04:11 PM
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My lovely and talented mother uses it frequently. She's from Ballarat, in Australia. I still use it now, but the place I currently live is awash in anachronistic usages, so I doubt anyone notices this sort of phrasing.

You'll occasionally hear a young woman called 'maid' here. As in "thank you, maid".
#19
Old 06-15-2008, 04:14 PM
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Hey thanks everyone. I hadn't expected that many reactions!

It seems to me, judging from your replies, that it's in the passive vocabulary of English-speakers worldwide, while your mileage for active vocab may vary: Common in some regions, less common but recognisable in others.

As said, I find it interesting that the same word evolved in the other direction in German, teuer in the meaning o"beloved" being quite archaic nowadays.
#20
Old 06-15-2008, 08:39 PM
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Very common in New Zealand....I don't think I heard a kiwi say "expensive" or "fancy" (that would instead be "flash") in several weeks there.
#21
Old 06-15-2008, 08:49 PM
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As used in the Beatles' song in the OP, it would be very unusual to hear someone say that in the US. But I think most people would understand the meaning.

He paid dearly for his mistake. Yes, that wouldn't be uncommon in the US.

The rent was too dear for us. I can't imagine any American I know saying that.
#22
Old 06-15-2008, 08:59 PM
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Common in Australia
#23
Old 06-15-2008, 09:08 PM
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(Adelaide, Australia)

It's more common for older folk here in Adelaide. My (maternal) grandparents say it, as do many people around their age.

Not so common in my mum's generation and almost unheard of in my generation, though we understand that it means "expensive".
#24
Old 06-15-2008, 09:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
The rent was too dear for us. I can't imagine any American I know saying that.
'Cause that's not really how it's used. You'd probably use "high" for rent anyway, not "expensive." (Though the apartment is expensive, the rent is high.)

I use dear and I hear others use it as well, but it's usually used for slight comic effect. "Oh, the Manolo Blahniks were gorgeous, but I'm afraid they were just a bit too dear."
#25
Old 06-15-2008, 09:53 PM
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New England; charmingly old-fashioned.

I use it, but never for something trendy & flash; good jewelry or a good coat might be 'dear', but this season's hot shoes or bag or whatever is only expensive.

Both 'beloved' and 'expensive' mean 'highly valued'.
#26
Old 06-15-2008, 10:13 PM
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I am familiar with that usage, but it's something that I see more in print than something I hear said.

23, from Northern California.
#27
Old 06-15-2008, 10:26 PM
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My grandparents- all born in Ireland around 1909- used "dear" to mean expensive all the time.

But nobody may age ever used that expression in New York City.
#28
Old 06-15-2008, 11:10 PM
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I've lived in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, but the only person I know who uses it is my 103-year-old great-grandmother, a native of south-central PA.
#29
Old 06-16-2008, 12:38 AM
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The meaning of dear in this familiar excerpt from a speech means, I think, "highly valued." That could mean either expensive or cherished.

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! -- Patrick Henry
#30
Old 06-16-2008, 01:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierra Indigo
It's more common for older folk here in Adelaide. My (maternal) grandparents say it, as do many people around their age.

Not so common in my mum's generation and almost unheard of in my generation, though we understand that it means "expensive".
I'm clearly showing my age here, because I use it fairly often.
#31
Old 06-16-2008, 01:47 AM
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Another Cannuck chiming in to say its not uncommon up here, but tends to be used by people 35 and older... as such its probabaly on the decline in usage.

regards
FML
#32
Old 06-16-2008, 02:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Governor Quinn
I am familiar with that usage, but it's something that I see more in print than something I hear said.
Ditto. 27, from Arkansas
#33
Old 06-16-2008, 02:52 AM
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I grew up as the granddaughter of an English grandmother and daughter of an English mother -- so "dear" in terms of prices was fairly common in the household. Same with most of those living around us here in Auckland.

But, the usage is giving way to "expensive" as the years pass. I agree that it seems to be a generational thing, tied in with British background.
#34
Old 06-16-2008, 03:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cunctator
I'm clearly showing my age here, because I use it fairly often.
You're not old, just classical
#35
Old 06-16-2008, 05:16 AM
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I have only heard it from my English aunt as she was talking to venders in Tijuana. I started to go and translate for her but they seemed to understand "too dear."

I have never heard it from my lovely and talented mother who is from Geelong Australia, not from Ballarat as "Attack from the third dimension" would have you believe.

Coincidentally, we (3rd dimension and I) have the exact same mother.
#36
Old 06-16-2008, 06:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. Slothrop
...

Coincidentally, we (3rd dimension and I) have the exact same mother.
Gee, what are the odds of that?

Forty-something former New Yorker here, now living in the Boston area. I don't think I have ever heard any person born in the US use the word "dear" as the Beatles did in the song in the OP.

The usage strikes me as quaint in a foreign sort of way. I certainly recognize the meaning but I read a lot of Wodehouse.
#37
Old 06-16-2008, 07:06 AM
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Very common in Ireland also.
#38
Old 06-16-2008, 07:10 AM
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I'd understand it, sure. But I wouldn't use it.

I actually popped in to say that 'When I'm 64' was definitely not a Ringo tune - that one's Paul all the way.

#39
Old 06-16-2008, 07:13 AM
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It had never occurred to me before that "dear", meaning expensive, was not used throughout the English speaking world. It does seem to be older people who use it rather than young people - but everybody in the UK understands it, and nobody would comment or think it quaint if it was used in conversation.
#40
Old 06-16-2008, 08:01 AM
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As others have said, it is common enough that I would understand it, but not so common that I use it or hear it regularly.
#41
Old 06-16-2008, 08:14 AM
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Ex-midwest transplanted to the US south; I understand it, but don't use it.

It would be even more out of place now than before.
#42
Old 06-16-2008, 08:17 AM
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It common, but expensive is more prevalent.
#43
Old 06-16-2008, 09:48 AM
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Hijack: I moved to the Oregon last year, and have heard a word for "expensive" that I've never heard anywhere else:


"spendy"

("...we like going to that restaurant, but it's pretty spendy...")


It stops me in my tracks every time I hear it, because it sounds so strange. Is this a PNW-only word, or is it in wide circulation nationwide and I've just been sheltered?

Last edited by toadspittle; 06-16-2008 at 09:49 AM. Reason: formatting
#44
Old 06-16-2008, 10:49 AM
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As a fellow resident of the PNW, I can tell you that "spendy" has been part of the local slang for at least ten years: long enough to take hold here, possibly not long enough to be exported.

There's another PNW phenomenon that's worth mentioning, too. We've got lots of large-mammal wildlife in our forests and on the wilderness fringes of our cities. The roads that cut through these areas serve as both border and thoroughfare to the animals. There are a number of places where inattentive drivers frequently strike these animals with their vehicles, resulting in great damage and possibly a pricey stay in the hospital. It's therefore necessary to warn drivers that they're approaching a stretch of road where inattention can result in expensive repairs and medical costs, and that if they don't want a hit to the bank account, they should stay alert and exercise caution.

Hence, the frequently spotted sign: "Dear Crossing."
#45
Old 06-16-2008, 10:54 AM
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In French it's either "beloved" or "expensive" depending on the context:

"Mon cher ami" = my dear friend

"L'essence est chère" gasoline is expensive

Humorously you can say "ma chère épouse" with the meaning of "costly" if you talk about finances
#46
Old 06-16-2008, 12:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
I'm a 50 year old US midwesterner who has been familiar with the use of the word 'dear' to mean expensive since at least the 5th grade.

So take that for what it's worth.
This is new to me. I didn't know that it was used in that sense anywhere in the U.S., except figuratively, when referring to mistakes that are dearly paid for and so on. I would say further that 'dear' and 'dearly' denote the effort and tribulation of the person doing the 'paying' so to speak, rather than a simple numeric price.

I always thought 'dear'='expensive' was common UK usage.

Or is it common only in the North, for example, in Liverpool where the Beatles grew up?

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 06-16-2008 at 12:17 PM.
#47
Old 06-16-2008, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
I always thought 'dear'='expensive' was common UK usage.

Or is it common only in the North, for example, in Liverpool where the Beatles grew up?
It's common nationwide. Its frequency of use probably varies more with generation than with region.
#48
Old 06-17-2008, 12:32 PM
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Mid-west US.
I occasionally use it, but usually meaning costly in something other then money.
If it's just money, it expensive. If the cost is in time, dignity, effort, inconvenience, etc, then it's dear.
#49
Old 07-16-2008, 03:02 PM
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Could dear in English be related to the Irish daor (pron. 'dare') meaning expensive?
#50
Old 07-16-2008, 04:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by An Gadaí
Could dear in English be related to the Irish daor (pron. 'dare') meaning expensive?
"Daor" is the opposite of "saor" meaning "free" (as in a free man). It's one of the "s" "d" pairs like dorcha and sorcha, dólás and sólás, and so on.

"Dear" in English is from a Germanic origin.

I wouldn't rule out a family relationship, but an independent origin seems more likely, as they converged on the meaning of expensive from different semantic directions ("enslaved" and "cherished" respectively).
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