What Does Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Mean?

saints peter and paul by el greco

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In short, the robbing Peter to pay Paul expression refers to solving a debt by incurring another one. It dates back to 1450, maybe even earlier, and originated in Europe. Although many linguists guarantee?these two names have been chosen because of the alliteration, history suggests there might be more to it. Here?s how to provide a comprehensive answer if you encounter an IT interview question regarding this expression:

Where the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Expression Originated

The robbing Peter to pay Paul expression is believed to have been coined in the times before the Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church. During the mid-16th century, the abbey church of Saint Peter became a cathedral, then part of the diocese of London since the Westminster one dissolved. After a few years, most of the valuable items got?moved to Saint Paul?s Cathedral for repairs. Hence, the robbing of Peter and the paying of Paul.

This seems the most logical explanation for this expression?s origin. However, we can find mentions of this saying in writings significantly older than the aforementioned event. A 1450 writing called Jacob’s well: an English treatise on the cleansing of man’s conscience has the following quote:

To robbe Petyr & geve it Poule, it were non almesse but gret synne.

It?s not yet sure who coined the ?robbing Peter to pay Paul? expression or who it refers to. Nevertheless, it refers to taking something (most often money or other finite resources) from a source and direct them to another.

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