What Does Foot the Bill Mean?

Foot the Bill Meaning

Definition: To pay for the bill or to cover the cost of something.

Origin of Foot the Bill

This expression dates back to the early 1800s.

Foot can mean the bottom of something, such as the bottom of a mountain. In this idiom, it refers to the bottom of a column of prices on a bill.

Originally, footing the bill meant to add up the prices of different items on a bill and find the total cost. This total cost appears at the lowest part of the bill, or in other words, the foot of the bill.

Over time, this changed to mean covering the cost. Nowadays, this expression often implies covering a large bill, especially for someone else’s expenses, such as a son or daughter’s wedding.

Examples of Foot the Bill

what does footing the bill meanIn the example below, a husband tells his wife about some debts that his brother has incurred.

Kip: My brother Ronny was gambling again. The creditors are coming after him. I offered to pay his debts one last time if he promises to get professional help for his gambling addiction.

Caroline: I’m so sick of him doing that! It’s unfair to expect you to continue to foot the bill for his poor life choices!

Kip: Well, he didn’t ask me to. I did feel like I had a responsibility to do it though, even though I’d rather not spend my money on such things.

footed the billIn this second example, two lawyers are on their way to lunch with an important client.

Jessica: I know you’re new to the firm. How do you like it so far?

George: It’s great! But there’s still so much to learn. For example, how are we supposed to pay for this lunch with this client? This is an expensive restaurant, and I haven’t even gotten my first paycheck yet.

Jessica: Don’t worry. The firm will foot the bill.

More Examples

This excerpt discusses an actress who had to pay to be part of a movie.

  • In fact, Olivia Munn, who has a cameo in the film as an attendee at the Met Gala, had to foot the bill for the privilege. –New York Post

This excerpt is about who is responsible for paying extra costs to guard a politician.

  • “This is a major victory for New York taxpayers and law enforcement, who shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the federal responsibility of protecting the president-elect,” said New York Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, who announced the grant funding Wednesday. –New York Post


The phrase foot the bill means to cover the expenses of a bill, especially a large amount of money, for a cost someone else has accrued.