Understanding the Idiom: "in kind" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
Etymology: Calque of Latin in specie.

When it comes to understanding idioms, it can be quite a challenge. The idiom “in kind” is no exception. This phrase is often used in everyday conversation and writing, but its meaning may not always be clear to non-native English speakers or those unfamiliar with the context in which it is being used.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “in kind”

The phrase “in kind” is a commonly used idiom in modern English language. It refers to the exchange of goods or services for other goods or services, rather than using money as a medium of exchange. The origins of this idiom can be traced back to ancient times when bartering was a common practice.

Historically, people exchanged goods and services without using money as currency. This system was prevalent in many cultures around the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The concept of trading in kind was based on mutual trust between individuals who were exchanging their products or services.

In medieval Europe, bartering became more organized with the emergence of trade fairs where merchants from different regions would come together to exchange their goods. These fairs played an important role in promoting commerce and cultural exchange between different societies.

With the advent of modern banking systems and paper currency, bartering declined as a primary mode of transaction. However, even today many people prefer to trade in kind for various reasons such as avoiding taxes or simply because they find it more convenient.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “in kind”

The idiom “in kind” is a versatile expression that can be used in various contexts to convey different meanings. Its usage may vary depending on the situation, but it generally refers to something being given or received as an equivalent or similar item rather than cash or money.

Variations of “in kind”

There are several variations of the idiom “in kind” that are commonly used in everyday conversations. Some examples include:

  • “In lieu of cash” – This phrase is often used when someone wants to offer an alternative form of payment instead of cash.
  • “In return for” – This variation is used when someone wants to give something back in exchange for what they have received.
  • “In the same vein” – This phrase is often used when someone wants to express similarity between two things without using direct comparisons.

Usage Examples

The idiom “in kind” can be applied in many situations, some common examples include:

  1. A company may donate goods or services “in kind” instead of giving money as a charitable contribution.
  2. If you lend someone money and they want to repay you with something other than cash, they might say they will pay you back “in kind”.
  3. If someone helps you out with a task, you might offer to help them out with something else later on “in return”.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “in kind”

Synonyms for “in kind” include “reciprocally,” “mutually,” and “equivalently.” These words convey the idea of something being given or received in return for something else. On the other hand, antonyms for “in kind” include phrases such as “unequally,” or “disproportionately.” These terms suggest a lack of balance or fairness in an exchange.

Cultural insights into the usage of this idiom reveal that it is often used in business settings when discussing trade or compensation. For example, if two companies agree to exchange goods or services, they may do so “in kind” rather than using cash payments. This can be seen as a way to maintain good relationships between businesses by showing mutual trust and respect.

In addition to business contexts, the phrase can also be used in personal relationships where there is an expectation of reciprocity. For instance, if someone does a favor for a friend, they may expect their friend to do something similar in return – perhaps even “in kind.”

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “in kind”

Exercise Description
1 Write a short paragraph describing a situation where you received something “in kind”. Use the idiom correctly in your writing.
2 Create a dialogue between two people discussing an exchange that was made “in kind”. Use the idiom appropriately in your conversation.
3 Read a news article or watch a video about an event where something was given or received “in kind”. Summarize the story and explain how the idiom was used.

These exercises are designed to help you practice using the idiom “in kind” accurately and confidently. By applying this expression in different situations, you will gain a deeper understanding of its meaning and usage. Keep practicing until it becomes second nature!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “in kind”

When using idioms in a language, it is important to understand their meanings and usage. The idiom “in kind” is no exception. However, there are common mistakes that people make when using this idiom that can lead to confusion or misunderstanding.

Mistake Explanation
Using it as a synonym for “in cash” The phrase “in kind” means payment or compensation made with goods or services instead of money. It cannot be used interchangeably with “in cash”.
Misusing the preposition “of” The correct preposition to use with the idiom is “in”, not “of”. For example, one should say “He paid me in kind” instead of “He paid me of his own kind”.
Not specifying what was given in return To avoid ambiguity, it is important to specify what was given in return for something received in kind. For example, one should say “She gave me her old laptop in kind for my help with her project” instead of simply saying “She gave me something in kind.”

Avoiding these common mistakes will help ensure that you use the idiom correctly and effectively convey your intended meaning.


  1. kind, n.”, in OED Online ?, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, launched 2000. (section 15. “in kind”)
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