Does pocketbook in the following paragraph mean 3. Also, pocket book . a book, usually paperback, that is small enough to carry in one's coat pocket. (Dictionary.com:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pocketbook)?

These two paragraphs are taken from NY Times.

As Germany embarks on this journey of self-discovery, the question is whether it will leave behind a European project which was built in no small measure on the nation’s postwar guilt and on its pocketbook.

On the one hand, no nation has benefited more from the euro than Germany, whose trade surpluses come largely from imports by its European neighbors.

2 Answers 2


"Pocketbook" in this case is used to mean a budget. Although "pocketbook" is usually used to refer to a wallet(especially a woman's purse), in this case, it's being used figuratively:

2.(figuratively) One's personal budget or economic capacity - the amount one can afford.

Even in the link you provided, you can see, that, in view of the context, the definition most appropriate to the situation would be number 2.


Similarly to your other question, personification is at work here. That is:

The attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something    
nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.

Just like a crisis can not actually drag along someone (dragging along someone requires a mind capable of higher thought, which only people have), a nation cannot actually have a pocketbook (a wallet).

If we look at what a wallet usually is -- just a place to keep our money -- we can reason that a pocketbook in this case simply represents the money that the nation has. The phrase one usually uses for this is budget.

  • The metaphor is not personification, it is metonymy, meaning by association of pocketbook with the much larger community budget.
    – Mitch
    Sep 8, 2011 at 12:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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