What is the meaning of the phrase “Rob Peter to pay Paul”?

The phrase “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” is used to refer to a situation when someone takes something of value from one person (Peter, in this case) in order to pay off a debt that is owed to another person (Paul, in this case). The “something of value” is usually money, but it depends on the context in which this phrase is used. Peter and Paul are not real people, but are just names that happen to be part of the phrase.

Origin of the phrase “Rob Peter to pay Paul”?

In Europe, before the 16th century, people often had to pay taxes to a church called St. Paul’s in London and also to another church called St. Peter’s in Rome. People would often avoid paying the tax to St. Peter’s in order to pay the tax to St. Paul – and that is the origin of the phrase “rob Peter to pay Paul.”

"Bernie Madoff made billions of dollars by creating
a network of rich investors whose money he actually stole
for himself rather than invested.  When someone asked for
their money back, Madoff would simply find a new investor
to pay off that investor who wanted his money back, and 
would give him a good return - something like 10% on 
his initial investment.  So, Madoff was essentially
robbing Peter to pay Paul, and of course running a 
clever Ponzi scheme."

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