Have you heard the expression ‘pie in the sky’ and are wondering what it means? This article will go over everything you need to know about this idiom.
‘Pie in the sky’ is a phrase that can be used to describe an unrealistic expectation of prosperity or an idea that sounds good but most likely won’t come to pass.
‘Pie in the sky’ is an idiom used to describe a plan, promise, or ideal that sounds very good but is probably unlikely to occur. It can be used as a noun or as an adjective to describe another noun. When it is used as an adjective, the word is hyphenated to read ‘pie-in-the-sky.’
This idiom can be used to refer to something that is falsely optimistic. For example, you could call someone’s ambitions to become President of the United States ‘pie in the sky’ if they had no political experience or popular support.
In short, ‘pie in the sky’ is an idiom that expresses cynicism in the face of an idea that sounds good. Another example would be if your friend said they were going to start a billion-dollar tech company, but they lacked the technical experience, business experience, and work ethic to actually achieve the lofty goal in your point of view. In this instance, you could call their plans ‘pie in the sky.’
The first time the phrase ‘pie in the sky’ was used was in the song “The Preacher and the Slave.” Written in 1911 by the songwriter and labor activist Joe Hill, it was originally written as a parody of “In the Sweet By-and-By,” a Salvation Army hymn.
This song was a criticism of the Salvation Army because Hill believed they were more concerned with the salvation of people than they were with helping them meet their material needs.
The lyrics from the song that includes the phrase ‘pie in the sky’ are:
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.
As you can see, these lyrics are sarcastically promising great things after death in lieu of having what you need here on earth.
So, how do you use ‘pie in the sky’ in a sentence?
Let’s look at some examples:
There are a number of other idioms that relay a similar message as ‘pie in the sky,’ including:
Some synonyms for ‘pie in the sky’ include:
Some of these idioms and synonyms are probably more recognizable to you than others. For example, ‘pipe dream,’ ‘wishful thinking,’ and ‘empty promise’ are much more commonly used than ‘eggs in moonshine,’ ‘Xanadu,’ or ‘jam tomorrow.’
Though this idiom dates back more than one hundred years, it is still commonly used in everyday speech and writing. You might come across it in books, on TV, or in conversation with another person.
Now that you know what 'pie in the sky' means, you can confidently use it to describe ideas or plans you believe are farfetched and unrealistic despite the fact that it would be nice if they came true.
There are countless fascinating idioms in the English language, and learning them can help you expand your vocabulary and be more descriptive in your writing.
Before you go, don't forget to check out the rest of our articles about idioms and common phrases! There you can find articles about fascinating phrases like 'who dares wins' and 'canary in a coal mine.'