May 03, 2012
pay dirt (noun)
\PAY-DERT\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a useful or profitable discovery or object
How do you use it?
When I opened the largest birthday gift and saw it was a new video game console, I knew I had hit pay dirt.
Are you a word wiz?

The meaning we give above for "pay dirt" is the most recent one. What do you think was the original meaning of "pay dirt"?

If you chose B, you hit pay dirt! "Pay dirt" was first used in written English in the mid-1800s, right in the middle of the California Gold Rush. During the Gold Rush, prospectors would claim a piece of land and begin mining it, or pan for gold in the sediment at the bottom of a river. "Pay dirt," then, was originally used of earth or ore that had gold or other precious metals in it and would provide the miner with a profit. It gained the sense we give it today, "a useful or profitable discovery or object," in the late 1800s.
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