adjective, cheap·er, cheap·est.
- costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive: a cheap dress.
- costing little labor or trouble: Words are cheap.
- charging low prices: a very cheap store.
- of little account; of small value; mean; shoddy: cheap conduct; cheap workmanship.
- embarrassed; sheepish: He felt cheap about his mistake.
- obtainable at a low rate of interest: when money is cheap.
- of decreased value or purchasing power, as currency depreciated due to inflation.
- stingy; miserly: He’s too cheap to buy his own brother a cup of coffee.
- at a low price; at small cost: He is willing to sell cheap.
- cheap at twice the price, exceedingly inexpensive: I found this old chair for eight dollars—it would be cheap at twice the price.
- on the cheap, Informal. inexpensively; economically: She enjoys traveling on the cheap.
- costing relatively little; inexpensive; good value
- charging low pricesa cheap hairdresser
- of poor quality; shoddycheap furniture; cheap and nasty
- worth relatively littlepromises are cheap
- not worthy of respect; vulgar
- ashamed; embarrassedto feel cheap
- stingy; miserly
- informal mean; despicablea cheap liar
- cheap as chips See chip (def. 11)
- dirt cheap informal extremely inexpensive
- on the cheap British informal at a low cost
- at very little cost
“low in price, that may be bought at small cost,” c.1500, ultimately from Old English noun ceap “traffic, a purchase,” from ceapian (v.) “trade,” probably from an early Germanic borrowing from Latin caupo “petty tradesman, huckster” (see chapman).
The sense evolution is from the noun meaning “a barter, a purchase” to “a purchase as rated by the buyer,” hence adjectival meaning “inexpensive,” the main modern sense, via Middle English phrases such as god chep “favorable bargain” (12c., a translation of French a bon marché).
Sense of “lightly esteemed, common” is from 1590s (cf. similar evolution of Latin vilis). The meaning “low in price” was represented in Old English by undeor, literally “un-dear” (but deop ceap, literally “deep cheap,” meant “high price”).
The word also was used in Old English for “market” (cf. ceapdæg “market day”), a sense surviving in place names Cheapside, East Cheap, etc. Related: Cheaply. Expression on the cheap is first attested 1888. Cheap shot originally was U.S. football jargon for a head-on tackle; extended sense “unfair hit” in politics, etc. is by 1970. German billig “cheap” is from Middle Low German billik, originally “fair, just,” with a sense evolution via billiger preis “fair price,” etc.
In addition to the idioms beginning with cheap
- cheap at twice the price
- cheap shot
- cheap skate
- dirt cheap
- on the cheap