Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sounds like something a snake oil salesman on the wild west could come up with. Can the origins be traced?


In a transcript of a state trial from 1798:

What did you give it him for? Did he make use of it? Was it to protect his copper from being changed that you did it? — He was very officious to make things in a light easy way without much trouble, to make nis bread light. But I did it more in fun than profit.

This is clearly not the same phrase, but it seems to be more than an accidental use of those two words togather.

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I don't know about the origins, but it is definitely not a recent expression. As the following examples found with Google Books indicate, the expression is used since the 19th century at least:

Pamphlets, Religious: Miscellaneous (1847)

It matters not if you call it a "fish pond" for fun and profit„or a five cent chance to get a quilt at a draw or a raffle given by a Ladies' Aid Society of Church, or the profits on editing a newspaper for one day, or running a railroad


The American Angler (1897)

I am now fixing up some trout ponds, a pet scheme of mine, in which I shall propagate trout for fun and profit. The law here is, that no one can sell trout in market unless from private ponds, and I shall of course be in the game.

share|improve this answer

I found the phrase back to 1833 (check) in an English translation of a book by the French novelist Charles Paul de Kock called The Modern Cymon. Here, three characters have hatched a plan to simulate a two-headed man they hope others will pay to see:

"fun and profit" clip from Google Books

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.