I have always understood take someone for something to have a similar meaning to peg someone for something. But I heard in the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels:

Look what I did in the dining car! She gave me 100 francs. That's like, uh... 20 bucks! Do you have any idea what it feels like to take a woman for 20 bucks?

Here take a woman for 20 bucks apparently means take 20 bucks from a woman. This also appears in another scene:

Freddy: But she has the money.

Lawrence: Only by selling everything she owns.

Freddy: Come on! She's keeping the mink. If we take her for everything, she still comes out of it with a very nice mink.

Does take someone for something mean take something from someone? I can't find this usage in dictionaries.

  • The object of the preposition for in this locution is what is taken from the object of take. They took him for everything he had. The verb is synonymous with the verb fleece or with to cheat someone out of something.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 12:24

4 Answers 4


It has feeling of coercion or deception to it. It sounds like they swindled the first person, and are trying to swindle the second one. From M-W

19 : to obtain money from especially fraudulently • took me for all I had

  • It may help to know that Freddy and Lawrence are confidence artists, as suggested by the title Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 5:06

To "take someone for" something is to swindle, con, hustle, or cheat them out of that something, generally money or property.

Apparently, this usage is fading from popularity, because it used to be universally understood, and now people have to ask when they run across it or guess what it means. I'm not guessing. That IS what it means, in that context. As someone pointed out, the movie characters were 'con artists' from an earlier era, so the phrase was perfectly appropriate.


To add to Em.'s answer, the meaning can be a little broader, relating to another definition of take: to defeat someone in a fight or contest (although this context doesn't involve physical violence).

Your example probably does refer to taking money through deception of some form, as Em. described. But the expression is also used in a context like getting something from someone by beating them in something like a lawsuit or business deal.

"Take someone for X" means that you will get X from them as a result of the planned action. So in general, "take someone for everything" means to take everything they own, or their entire stake in something, via some kind of scheme or planned action.


It's a variation of for all (one) is worth (The Free Dictionary):

  1. To the greatest degree or extent of one's ability; to the utmost; as vigorously or intensely as possible. When I saw the police approaching, I ran for all I was worth.
  2. As much as one has available or to offer. If you can't get her to sign a prenup now, that guy is liable to take her for all she's worth if they get divorced.

In your example, it would be meant in the second sense—and rather than being taken for all she's worth (everything), she's only being taken for twenty dollars.

The implication is that you've taken something off of somebody else (scammed them for it, if you will), rather than simply accepting it. But in the example, it's also meant in an sarcastic way—because who cares about only twenty dollars?

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