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Victarion and Theon occasionally make reference to "paying the iron price" for acquiring stuff; what does this mean exactly? It seems like that's what they call plunder, but they're not really the ones paying so it sounds strange. Are their foes the ones who are "paying"?

Its dual "paying the gold price" (oh how the Ironmen loathe commerce?) seems more straightforward.

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    Iron here is a euphemism for Force. Swords, knives, axes ... etc are made of iron, thus "paying the iron price" for something is using these implements of war in order to take it. – System Down Nov 16 '11 at 0:20
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    To extend upon the multiple meanings of "iron", the Greyjoys are also the ruling family of The Iron Islands. – Beofett Nov 16 '11 at 1:29
  • I thought maybe it was the iron in one's blood... – user13798 Apr 13 '13 at 13:15
  • @EldyAblo Hi, welcome to stack exchange! Check out the faq when you get the chance. It looks like you answered this question, but only with speculation. I hope you don't mind but I've converted it into a comment. Thanks! – AncientSwordRage Apr 13 '13 at 14:59
  • Just make sure you never advertise something of yours as being available for the iron price. – Paul D. Waite Jun 9 '18 at 13:41
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Paying the iron price is indeed just taking plunder by force.

An Ironborn man took pride in not having to pay for jewelery but taking it from those too weak to hold it ("Paying the Iron price")

Also:

The Old Ways, are still highly regarded on the Iron Islands. The Old Way embodies the remembered values of a culture based on raiding. A man’s worth was judged primarily on his skill as a raider, as evidenced in the surviving practice regarding jewellery. Men on the Iron Islands wear no tokens unless they have “paid the iron price,” i.e. not bought or bartered, only won by combat and taken from their fallen foes.

11

Paying the "Iron price" means killing the people or person that owned the item before hand. Then just taking it from them.

A quote from "A Clash of Kings":

It's been so long... In the old way, Women might decorate them selves with ornaments bought with coin, but a warrior wore only the jewlery he took off the corpses of enemies slain by his own hand. Paying the Iron Price is what it was called.

6

To pay the gold price is to buy an item with gold. (bought with currency) To pay the iron price is to buy an item with iron. (weapons are made of iron, and the weapons are used to take what they want, so it is 'bought' with iron.)

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