two bits

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noun (used with a singular or plural verb)Slang.
twenty-five cents.
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Origin of two bits

An Americanism dating back to 1720–30
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does two bits mean?

Two bits is an old slang term for 25 cents.

It’s based on the sense of the word bit that refers to one eighth of a U.S. dollar, or 12 ½ cents. However, monetary amounts counted in bits were only ever given in multiples of two, as in two bits and six bits. Two bits became an informal way of referring to the value of the 25-cent coin known as the quarter. It then came to be used in a general way meaning a small amount.

It’s still sometimes used this way, especially in negative statements, as in That piece of junk isn’t worth two bits or That job is like a vacation—I’d do it for two bits.

It is also the basis of the informal adjective two-bit, meaning inferior, cheap, worthless, or insignificant.

Two-bit is always used before the noun it describes. It’s perhaps most commonly used to negatively describe a person considered to be a small-time hack—someone who’s not good at what they do due to having a very low level of talent or skill. It’s especially used as an insult applied to people who have a high opinion of themselves to call them out as being far inferior in reality.

Describing something as two-bit means it’s low-quality. This is especially applied to products.

Example: My dad likes to tell me stories about how he used to be able to buy a whole lunch for two bits—and get change!

Where does two bits come from?

The first records of the phrase two bits in reference to 25 cents come from around the 1720s. It was first and is primarily used in the U.S.

People still sometimes say two bits to mean 25 cents, but doing so is usually an attempt to sound old-timey—especially since not much costs 25 cents anymore. For that reason, it’s more commonly used to mean a small amount. It can be used in much the same way as the figurative sense of two cents.

Did you know ... ?

What are some synonyms for two bits?

What are some words that share a root or word element with two bits

What are some words that often get used in discussing two bits?

How is two bits used in real life?

Two bits is very informal. When it’s used literally, it’s usually to sound old-timey.



Try using two bits!

Is two bits used correctly in the following sentence?

I wouldn’t pay two bits for that thing—it doesn’t even work.

How to use two bits in a sentence

Other Idioms and Phrases with two bits

two bits

see under for two cents.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.