The Grammarphobia Blog

Points about price

Q: When did the phrase “price point,” as in “we expect the $499 price point to be maintained,” become common usage? And will it (we hope) and its superfluous “point” disappear?

A: You may be surprised to learn (I know I was!) that the expression “price point” goes back to the 1890s and has been in use pretty steadily since then.

The first published reference in the Oxford English Dictionary is from the Denton (Md.) Journal of April 21, 1894: “Women’s capes … More than five hundred styles of them, reaching up to—almost any price point you please.”

The OED describes “price point” as a marketing term originating in the U.S. and meaning “a retail price, selected from the range of available or established prices as that most liable to attract consumers and ensure profitability.”

Despite the dictionary’s technical definition, I find that “price point” is often used in place of plain old “price.” And I too find the “point” superfluous (not to mention annoying) in ordinary usage. But I wouldn’t bet on its disappearance. I just googled “price point” and got nearly 2 million hits!

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