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Jump on the bandwagon

To “jump on the bandwagon” means that one is going to join in with whatever new or popular thing the majority is doing or thinking.

“Jump on the bandwagon” is a common English idiom that’s used to refer to people joining in with a popular trend. This might be something negative or positive depending on whose using the phrase and whose participating in the metaphorical jumping.

Jump on the bandwagon meaning and origin


Meaning of “Jump on the bandwagon”

To “jump on the bandwagon” means that one is going to join in with prevailing public opinion or interest. For example, if a politician becomes quite popular, that popularity breeds more interest, more people want to be associated with what’s seen as the winning team. It’s also possible to see the phrase “jump off the bandwagon” in use when someone or a group of people realize that their initial willingness to join in with the majority was a mistake. The “bandwagon effect” is associated with the term. It refers to the tendency to acquire a particular behavior or style when everyone else is doing it. As more people come to believe something, others also want to “jump on the bandwagon,” regardless of how true, good, or successful the thing the bandwagon represents is.


When To Use “Jump on the bandwagon”

It’s possible to use “jump on the bandwagon” in regard to almost any trend or belief. It’s most commonly used when speaking about politics but it could also be used in regard to a particular style, trend, job, purchase, or anything else a group can engage in. The “bandwagon” could be signing up for a particular exercise class, buying a new smartphone, watching a newly popular television show, and more.


Example Sentences With “Jump on the bandwagon”

  • I think I’m going to go ahead and jump on the bandwagon and get that new subscription.
  • Did you hear that Jen has already jumped on the bandwagon with us? I didn’t think she was going to.
  • They all keep jumping on the bandwagon, I can’t believe this is happening again.
  • This is totally the bandwagon effect, all these people keep jumping on and have no idea what they’re committing to.


Why Do Writers Use “Jump on the bandwagon?”

Writers use “jump on the bandwagon” in the same way and for the same reasons that people use it in everyday conversation. It’s possible to use the phrase in a negative, positive, or neutral way. For instance, a writer might create a character who easily jumps on every bandwagon that becomes popular. This person is sure to make a bad decision at some point and regret that choice. In another situation, a character might comment on another’s habit of jumping on bandwagons and point out how dangerous this is. Depending on how a writer uses the phrase it might be more or less helpful to the creation of their dialogue.


Origins of “Jump on the bandwagon”

The word “bangwagon” originated in the 19th century in the United States as a name for a wagon that carried a circus band. The term can be seen in The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself, an autobiography of Phineas T. Barnum the circus owner and founder of Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The book was written in 1855 and the line reads:

At Vicksburg we sold all our land conveyances excepting four horses and the ‘band wagon’.

Although Barnum did not coin the word “bandwagon,” its use is intimately tied to the circus. During the 19th century, after seeing the way that circuses were able to attract a crowd as they moved through the streets, politicians began using bandwagons to a campaign. The word evolved naturally into the phrase “jump on the bandwagon” meaning to join in with a politician’s campaign and their stated plans. There is a good example of the phrase in use in Teddy Roosevelt’s Letters, written in 1899 and published in 1951. One line from this work reads:

When I once became sure of one majority they tumbled over each other to get aboard the band wagon.

The first time the phrase appeared in American politics was in 1848 when Dan Rice used his bandwagon to attract attention for his campaign appearances. Politicians began seeking out a seat on the bandwagon, looking for a spot close by to his upcoming success. By the time that William Jennings Bryan was campaigning bandwagons were a regular feature in campaigns.


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