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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
First recorded in 1835-45 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for free lunch
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If he thinks we're keeping a free lunch counter for the likes of him he's mistaken.

    Joyce's Investments Fannie E. Newberry
  • It was the institution of the "free lunch" that I had struck.

    From Sea to Sea Rudyard Kipling
  • He was hungry, having had nothing all day but a glass of beer and a free lunch.

  • "Come across with the free lunch," Hendrik bade the proprietor.

    H. R. Edwin Lefevre
  • "I haven't had any free lunch as good as this in a year," he said.

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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