'Jump on the Bandwagon': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 5, 2023

If you've wondered what the expression 'jump on the bandwagon' means, you've come to the right place. In this article, you'll learn the meaning and origins of this famous idiom and how to use it.

But here's the short version:

  • To jump on the bandwagon is to become involved in an activity or movement after it has already become popular. 

What Does 'Jump on the Bandwagon' Mean?

'Jump on the bandwagon' is an idiom, which means it isn't to be interpreted literally (although its literal meaning can help us understand its origins, as we'll see later). When you jump on the bandwagon, it means you join a cause, movement, activity, hobby, idea, person, etc., that has become popularized.

Your reasons for jumping on the bandwagon could be pure—you might be genuinely interested in it—or calculated—because you have something to gain, such as sharing in its success.

Imagine, for example, that you've heard of a new, very effective diet trend, so you decide you want to try it for yourself.

You might say:

Have you heard of that new diet trend? I've heard it's working for a lot of people so I figure I might as well jump on the bandwagon and try it for myself.

You might also hear of the 'bandwagon effect,' which is the phenomenon of lots and lots of people joining a cause or activity simply because others are doing so.

Because this idiom contains a verb ('jump'), you might see it in various forms:

Some variants of the phrase are 'climb on the bandwagon,' 'hop on the bandwagon' and 'get on the bandwagon.'

Where Does 'Jump on the Bandwagon' Come From?

In the first half of the nineteenth century, when circuses arrived in a new town, it was common practice for them to parade around town with a horse-drawn wagon and a band performing on it. This was a way to promote the circus to get people to join the fun and buy tickets.

Dan Rice, the famous American clown and showman of the 19th century, decided to run for political office. He was known for his colorful career not only in entertainment but also in politics. In 1867, he ran for the position of President of the United States. He was nominated as the "People's Party" candidate for the presidential election of 1868. He used his fame as an entertainer to draw attention to his campaign, traveling the country with a circus-like campaign tour. Rice's campaign was marked by extravagant parades, speeches, and performances designed to entertain and amuse the crowds.

As he gained more supporters, other politicians tried to get seats on Rice's bandwagon because they thought some of his success would rub off onto them, hence the expression 'to jump on the bandwagon.'

Newspapers and magazines of the time played a role in spreading the phrase. Coverage of political events and circus performances that featured bandwagons helped disseminate the expression to a broader audience. One of the earliest recorded uses was in The New York Times (October 27, 1873):

When the nomination was made the Grant men jumped on the bandwagon and shouted and threw up their hats.

It also appeared in the The Chicago Tribune (July 1, 1892):

She climbed on the Cleveland bandwagon.

Over time, the idiom became a part of everyday language and was used in various contexts beyond politics and entertainment. People began using it to describe anyone who adopted a popular trend or movement without much original thought.

While it's challenging to pinpoint a single person or event responsible for popularizing the idiom, the convergence of these factors, along with its catchy and descriptive nature, contributed to its widespread use in the English language.

Example Sentences

Now we've covered the meaning and origins of the famous saying, let's look at some sentence examples that use it. I'll show you examples of the phrase in its various forms: infinitive, third-person singular, present participle, simple past, and past participle.

When they heard about the new diet trend, which was very successful. they decided to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try.

Many companies are eager to jump on the bandwagon of sustainability by promoting eco-friendly products.

He's not really interested in the sport, but he jumped on the bandwagon when his friends started watching it.

The company was late to adopt digital marketing strategies, but they finally decided to jump on the bandwagon to stay competitive when they learned how effective it is.

It seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon of remote work these days due to its flexibility.

The politician jumps on the bandwagon of a popular social issue to gain more support from voters.

The fashion industry constantly sees designers and brands jumping on the bandwagon of new trends.

As they watched the value of some cryptocurrencies soar, many investors jumped on the bandwagon, hoping for quick profits.

She's not a fan of superhero movies, but she decided to jump on the bandwagon and watch the latest blockbuster.

The company was hesitant about e-commerce, but they eventually realized they had to jump on the bandwagon to reach a wider audience. 

Other Ways to Say 'Jump on the Bandwagon'

There are other ways to talk about joining a popular movement or activity.

Here are some of them:

  • hitch one's wagon to a star
  • piggyback
  • ride the coattails
  • follow the crowd
  • join the fray
  • ride the wave
  • run with the pack

In Conclusion

That brings us to the conclusion of this article about the popular expression 'jump on the bandwagon.' If you know someone who constantly does things because they are fashionable or join activities because they grow in popularity, you might say that they are victims of the 'bandwagon effect' or that they love to 'jump on the bandwagon.' 

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!   

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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