Five-Finger Discount: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 26, 2023

The slang term "five-finger discount" refers to the act of shoplifting. The phrase utilizes humor and euphemism to describe stealing, where the "five fingers" stand for the hand used to carry out the act.

In short:

  • "Five-finger discount" refers to the act of stealing, specifically shoplifting.

What Does "Five-Finger Discount" Mean?

The phrase “five-finger discount” is a light-hearted, informal way of referring to the act of stealing, specifically, shoplifting. When someone uses a "five-finger discount," it means they are taking something from a store without paying for it. The phrase stems from the fact that people typically use their hands, which have five fingers, to carry out the act of theft.

Let's delve deeper into its primary meanings and uses:

  • "Five-finger discount" is a playful term used to indicate the act of stealing, especially shoplifting.
  • It's an idiomatic expression often employed in informal or casual conversations.
  • Despite its lighthearted tone, it refers to a serious and illegal act.
  • It can be used when discussing an instance of theft, usually in a way that downplays the severity or illegality of the act.
    • For example, if someone takes a candy bar from a store without paying, a friend might jokingly say they used a "five-finger discount."
  • Comparable phrases to "five-finger discount" might include terms like "lifting," "pinching," or "nicking" - other informal words used to describe stealing.

Where Does "Five-Finger Discount" Come From?

The idiom "five-finger discount" has roots in the late 20th century as a playful euphemism for stealing. The phrase plays on the image of a hand (with five fingers) taking something - a depiction of the physical act of theft. Although it might be used to make light of the situation, the underlying act it represents - shoplifting - is illegal and penalized in many jurisdictions.

Historical Example

"She might be using a five-finger-discount because it gives her a thrill."

- National Assessment of Educational Progress (Project) Newsletter, 1972

10 Examples of "Five-Finger Discount" in Sentences

To help you understand how to use this idiom, let's look at some examples from various contexts:

  • Until then, he had never thought of resorting to a five-finger discount, but desperation led him down the wrong path.
  • He managed a five-finger discount on the expensive watch despite the security cameras.
  • Although he felt the price of the item was a bit too much, it didn't justify using a five-finger discount.
  • She chuckled and said her new lipstick was a five-finger discount from the local convenience store.
  • That being said, applying a five-finger discount never leads to anything good.
  • That's why the store installed cameras, to deter those thinking of a five-finger discount.
  • The shopkeeper caught the boy red-handed, trying to take a five-finger discount on a packet of gum.
  • When the inventory didn't match the sales records, the manager suspected employees of using a five-finger discount.
  • He couldn't bear it when he realized his best friend had been living off the five-finger discount.
  • By the end of the day, he regretted his decision to take the five-finger discount and decided to return the item.

Examples of "Five-Finger Discount" in Pop Culture

The phrase "five-finger discount" occasionally appears in pop culture, often to bring humor to the serious act of theft.

Let's explore some instances:

  • "Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History" is a book written by Helene Stapinski. The book, published in 2001, tells the story of the author's family history tied to crime and corruption in Jersey City, New Jersey.
  • A song from the soundtrack of the TV show "Victorious 2.0: More Music from the Hit TV Show" features the phrase "five finger discount."
  • An Indie Spirit Awards article on Joe Don Baker's IMDb page mentions the phrase "five-finger discount."
  • The Avocado website published an article titled "Five Finger Discount: Xbox 360."
  • An episode of the TV show "Special Treat," scored by Charles Bernstein, is titled "Five Finger Discount."
  • Christopher Massey appeared in the "That's So Raven" episode titled "Five Finger Discount."
  • The band Choking Victim has a song titled "Five Finger Discount."
  • In the music video for the song "B Flat" by the band Gob, the phrase "five finger discount" is mentioned.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Five-Finger Discount"

There are other expressions with a similar meaning to "five-finger discount."

Here are some of them:

  • Shoplifting
  • Pilfering
  • Stealing
  • Nicking
  • Pinching
  • Lifting
  • Swiping
  • Thieving
  • Taking without paying
  • Boosting

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Five-Finger Discount":

  • What does "five-finger discount" mean?

"Five-finger discount" is a light-hearted term used to refer to the act of shoplifting or stealing something from a store without paying for it.

  • How can I use "five-finger discount" in a sentence?

You can use "five-finger discount" in a sentence to describe an act of stealing. For example, "Next time around, he vowed to pay for the things he wanted, instead of using the five finger discount."

  • Where does the term "five-finger discount" come from?

The term "five-finger discount" likely originates from the idea of using one's five fingers (the hand) to take something without paying for it.

  • Is "five-finger discount" a legal term?

No, "five-finger discount" is not a legal term. It's a slang phrase often used in casual or humorous contexts to refer to stealing.

  • Does "five-finger discount" refer only to small thefts?

Generally, the term "five-finger discount" is used to describe the act of stealing small, easily concealed items. However, it can also be used more broadly to refer to theft in general.

  • Does the phrase "five-finger discount" encourage theft?

No, the phrase "five-finger discount" does not encourage theft. It's merely a slang term that describes the act. Its usage doesn't promote or condone such actions.

  • Can "five-finger discount" be used in formal writing?

Given its casual, slang nature, "five-finger discount" is typically not used in formal writing or professional contexts. It's more common in casual speech or writing.

  • Is "five-finger discount" a common phrase?

While it's not universally known, "five-finger discount" is a recognized term in English-speaking countries, especially in the United States.

  • Can "five-finger discount" refer to any kind of theft?

While "five-finger discount" can technically refer to any act of stealing, it's most commonly used to refer to shoplifting small items from a store.

  • Is "five-finger discount" used in other languages?

The phrase "five-finger discount" is specific to English and may not have direct translations or equivalents in other languages.

Final Thoughts About "Five-Finger Discount"

"Five-finger discount" is a slang phrase to describe the act of shoplifting. While it's a more playful way to refer to a serious crime, its usage does not condone or encourage such behavior. Understanding this phrase can give insights into the English language's creative use of idioms.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Five-finger discount" is an idiom that means stealing, especially shoplifting.
  • It is more suitable for casual conversations and not for formal or professional contexts.
  • Despite its playful sound, "five-finger discount" refers to a criminal act and should not be seen as encouraging theft in any way.

Remember, while idioms add color and vibrancy to language, using them responsibly is important, ensuring they don't promote harmful actions or behaviors.

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