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One of the meanings of "tall" from dictionary.com:

large in amount or degree; considerable: a tall price

As I understood from this definition, "tall" in "a tall price" means "high". Is it so? Is there any difference between "tall" and "high" when we talk about prices? Thanks!

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  • Also relevant on ELL: What is the difference between "tall and high?" May 30 at 7:57
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    We don't talk about "tall prices". May 30 at 7:58
  • Weather Vane, your links don't answer my question because "high" and "tall" are discussed there in terms of the physical distance between two points, and in my example these words are used figuratively.
    – Loviii
    May 30 at 8:26
  • Perhaps a dictionary will answer the question: For tall: Of great or more than average height, especially (with reference to an object) relative to width. For high: Great, or greater than normal, in quantity, size, or intensity. We don't normally say "a tall price" despite your own reference's example. May 30 at 8:50
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    ...the use of "tall" in regard to things other than physical objects usually indicates some extreme. A tall story is hard to believe. A tall order is difficult to carry out. A tall price is hard to justify, whereas a high price is more of a factual statement. May 30 at 9:22

2 Answers 2

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To me, this isn't a very well-phrased definition for this meaning.

The meaning of the word tall in some instances shades towards extreme or unbelievable, as in a tall order or a tall tale. This is one of those instances.

Whereas a high price doesn't really convey any judgment on whether you think the price is excessive, a tall price gives the impression that you think the price is way too much.

From the OED:

Large in amount, big. slang (originally U.S.). tall order, something expected to be hard to achieve or fulfill.
1902: America is the land of ‘tall’ things, and this is certainly a ‘tall’ drink for twenty-five persons.
1946: Tall scoring by Indians at Lords.

Note that the OED says that this meaning is slang, and my personal impression is that, except for the fixed phrases tall tale or tall order, it's outdated slang (although I wouldn't be surprised if it was still used in some regions of the U.S.). I would advise against using it.

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Tall is the word we use for measuring the vertical height of humans

  • He's not tall enough for the part.

and also metaphorically the vertical height of long upright things (which resemble humans in being long and upright)

  • Sequoias are the tallest tree in North America.

  • The Empire State Building was once the tallest in Manhattan.

    (Mountains are edge cases -- tall mountains seems less likely than high mountains,
    though I haven't checked Google.)

High, on the other hand, is the general term, without any inference about the vertical-to-horizontal ratio of the thing described. It figures prominently in metaphors involving vertical scales, like high prices, high red count, high scores, high efficiency. These don't involve actual images of the scale, since a vertical list of numbers doesn't require much imaging.

But tall does require an image, and therefore it's only suitable for special metaphors,
like tall, dark, and handsome or tall tale.

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