Understanding the Idiom: "in the hopper" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
  • in the works

The phrase “in the hopper” is a common idiom used in English language. It is often used to describe something that is being prepared or worked on, but not yet ready for use or implementation. This idiom has its roots in agriculture, where a hopper was a container used to hold grain before it was processed into flour. In modern times, this phrase has taken on a broader meaning and can be applied to various situations.

The Origin of the Phrase

As mentioned earlier, the term “hopper” originally referred to a container used in agriculture. The word itself comes from Old English “hopor,” which means “a receptacle for grain.” Over time, this word came to refer specifically to containers used in mills for processing grain into flour. The phrase “in the hopper” likely originated from this usage, as it would have been common for workers at these mills to refer to grain that had been placed in the hopper but had not yet been processed as being “in the hopper.”

Usage of the Phrase Today

Today, the phrase “in the hopper” is still commonly used in English language. It can be applied to many different situations where something is being prepared or worked on but is not yet complete or ready for use. For example, someone might say that they have several projects “in the hopper” that they are working on simultaneously. Or an organization might announce that they have new initiatives “in the hopper” that will be rolled out over time.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “in the hopper”

The phrase “in the hopper” is a common idiom used in English language, which refers to something that is being prepared or worked on. The origins of this phrase are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in America during the early 20th century.

One theory suggests that the term may have been derived from the use of hoppers in grain mills, where grains were stored before they were ground into flour. Another theory suggests that it may have come from the use of hoppers in printing presses, where paper was stored before it was printed.

Regardless of its origin, “in the hopper” has become a widely used idiom over time. It can be used to refer to anything that is being planned or worked on, such as a project at work or an upcoming event.

In popular culture, this phrase has also been referenced in various forms of media including movies and television shows. Its usage has evolved over time and continues to be a relevant part of modern English language.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “in the hopper”

When it comes to idioms, their usage can vary depending on the context. The same goes for the idiom “in the hopper”. This phrase is often used in American English to describe something that is currently being worked on or considered. However, there are variations of this idiom that can change its meaning slightly.

Variation 1: “In the Hopper”

One common variation of this idiom is simply using it as is – “in the hopper”. This means that something has been added to a list or queue and is waiting to be processed or completed. For example, if someone says “I have a few more tasks in the hopper before I can start on your project”, they mean they need to finish some other work before they can begin working on your project.

Variation 2: “Throwing Something into the Hopper”

Another variation of this idiom involves adding an action verb – “throwing something into the hopper”. This means actively adding something new to a list or queue. For example, if someone says “I’m throwing my name into the hopper for consideration”, they mean they’re putting themselves forward as a candidate for something.

  • Other variations include:
  • “Keeping Things in the Hopper” – keeping options open
  • “Clearing Out/Emptying/Draining/Hitting Bottom of The Hopper” – completing all tasks

Understanding these variations can help you better understand how people are using this idiom in different contexts. So next time you hear someone say that something’s “in the hopper”, pay attention to what else they say around it!

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “in the hopper”


The idiom “in the hopper” can be replaced with several other phrases that convey a similar meaning. Some of these include:

  • On the agenda
  • In progress
  • Under consideration
  • Pending


To better understand an idiom, it can also be helpful to explore words or phrases with opposite meanings. Here are some antonyms for “in the hopper”:

  • Completed
  • Finished
  • Closed case
  • Dropped from consideration

By exploring both synonyms and antonyms for an idiom like “in the hopper,” you can gain a deeper understanding of its nuances and how it might be used in different contexts.

Cultural Insights:

The origins of idioms often have cultural roots. For example, “in the hopper” is thought to come from early voting machines where voters would place their ballots into a container called a “hopper.” The phrase then evolved to mean something that is being considered or processed.


This information provides context but may not always apply in modern usage. As language evolves over time, idioms can take on new meanings or lose their original cultural references.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “in the hopper”

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

  • The project is _____________.
  • We have several ideas ________________.
  • I need to get my application _______________ before the deadline.

In this exercise, you will be given a sentence with a blank space where “in the hopper” should be inserted. Your task is to fill in these blanks with appropriate words or phrases that fit well with each sentence. This exercise will help you practice using “in the hopper” correctly in different contexts.

Exercise 2: Role Play

  1. You are a manager of a company and your team has been brainstorming new product ideas. One of your colleagues suggests an idea but doesn’t seem too confident about it. Use “in the hopper” in your response and encourage them to keep coming up with ideas.
  2. You are at a job interview and they ask if you have any projects currently ongoing. Use “in the hopper” when describing what projects you’re working on and explain why they’re important for your career goals.
  3. You’re catching up with an old friend who asks what plans you have for next year. Use “in the hopper” when talking about some potential travel destinations or activities that interest you but haven’t yet been confirmed.

In this exercise, you will practice using “in the hopper” in real-life situations. Role-playing scenarios can help you become more comfortable and confident in using idioms like “in the hopper” during conversations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “in the hopper”

When using idioms, it is important to understand their meaning and usage in context. The idiom “in the hopper” refers to something that is being processed or considered for a future action. However, there are common mistakes that people make when using this idiom.

One mistake is using it in inappropriate situations. For example, saying “I have my lunch in the hopper” does not make sense as it implies that your lunch is being processed for future use. Another mistake is misusing the tense of the verb. The correct form would be “it’s in the hopper,” not “it was in the hopper.”

Another common mistake is overusing this idiom. It can become repetitive and lose its impact if used too frequently. Additionally, relying solely on idioms can hinder effective communication as they may not always be understood by others who are unfamiliar with them.

To avoid these mistakes, it’s important to use idioms sparingly and appropriately within context. It’s also helpful to familiarize oneself with different variations of an idiom and how they can be used effectively.

  1. Avoid using this idiom in inappropriate situations
  2. Use proper verb tense
  3. Avoid overusing idioms
  4. Familiarize yourself with variations of an idiom
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