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21 Jun. When should I use the English phrase “daylight robbery?”

This English expression is commonly used in informal contexts. It does not relate to literal robbery and is used in a more metaphorical context. If you would like to find out more about both its meaning and origin then keep reading!


The expression is used in order to denote that something is overpriced. It relates primarily to unfair and clear overcharging for something which is of a far lower value than the price.


The first printing of the expression can be traced back to the year 1916 in a play by Harold Brighouse called Hobson’s Choice. This use of the phrase does not, however, relate to overpricing and it is not until the year 1949 when the first use of the phrase in this context can be found. This is in Daniel Marcus Davin’s novel Roads from Home which reads “I can never afford it, said his sister. It’s daylight robbery.”

Whilst both these instances only date back around 100 years, it is suggested that the phrase in fact was first used in the 1690s during the reign of the monarch William III in Great Britain. There is no concrete evidence of this at the moment but it is argued that it was used in relation to the hotly debated Window Tax which was introduced at the time.


An example of this expression in use can be found in the title of an article in The Guardian newspaper from 2005 which reads “plumbers get away with daylight robbery, says Which?”

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