Understanding the Idiom: "jam tomorrow" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
Etymology: From Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (1871), where Alice is offered “jam to-morrow and jam yesterday — but never jam to-day”. This is a pun on a mnemonic for the usage of jam, iam in Latin (note i/j conflation in Latin spelling), which means “now”, but only in the future or past tense, not in the present (which is instead nunc).
  • pie in the sky

The idiom “jam tomorrow” is a commonly used expression that refers to the promise of something good in the future, but with no guarantee or certainty that it will actually happen. This phrase can be used in various contexts, such as politics, business, or personal relationships. It often implies a sense of skepticism or doubt towards promises made by others.

In essence, “jam tomorrow” represents an idea or concept that is appealing and desirable, but may not be realistic or achievable. It suggests a potential reward for patience and perseverance, but also highlights the risks associated with relying on uncertain promises.

While this idiom has been around for many years and has become part of everyday language in some cultures, its origins are unclear. Some suggest it may have originated from Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking-Glass”, where one character promises another jam tomorrow as a way to delay fulfilling their obligations.

Regardless of its origins, understanding the meaning behind “jam tomorrow” can help individuals navigate situations where they are promised something without any guarantees. By being aware of this idiom’s implications and nuances, people can make informed decisions about whether to trust these promises or pursue other options.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “Jam Tomorrow”

The phrase “jam tomorrow” has been used for centuries in English language, but its origin is not very clear. It is believed to have originated from a fable or a story that was popular in medieval times. This story tells about a king who promises his subjects jam tomorrow, which means that they will receive something good in the future, but never delivers on his promise.

The idiom gained popularity during the Victorian era when it was used to describe politicians who made empty promises to their constituents. The phrase became synonymous with deception and false hope.

During World War II, the British government used the phrase as part of their propaganda campaign to boost morale. Posters were created with slogans such as “We’ll have jam tomorrow” to encourage people to be patient and hopeful for better times ahead.

Today, the idiom is still commonly used in everyday language to describe situations where someone is promised something good in the future but there are doubts about whether it will actually happen.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “jam tomorrow”

The idiom “jam tomorrow” is a common expression used in English language to refer to a promise that may never be fulfilled. This phrase has been used in various contexts, including literature, politics, and everyday conversations.

Variations of the Idiom

While the original phrase is “jam tomorrow,” there are variations of this idiom that have been used over time. Some examples include “pie in the sky,” which refers to an unrealistic promise or hope for something better in the future; “promises, promises,” which implies skepticism towards someone’s words; and “empty promises,” which means a commitment without any intention of fulfilling it.

Usage of the Idiom

The idiom “jam tomorrow” has been used extensively in literature as a metaphor for unfulfilled promises. For instance, Lewis Carroll’s book Through The Looking Glass features a character named White Queen who offers Alice jam every other day but never delivers on her promise. Similarly, George Orwell’s Animal Farm uses this phrase as an allegory for political propaganda and empty promises made by leaders.

In everyday conversations, people use this idiom when they doubt someone’s ability or intention to fulfill their commitments. It can also be used humorously to express disappointment or frustration with situations where one expects something good but receives nothing.

Example Sentences:
“Don’t believe him; he always promises jam tomorrow.”
“I’m tired of hearing empty promises from my boss.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “jam tomorrow”


Some common synonyms for “jam tomorrow” include empty promises, false hopes, pipe dreams, and castles in the air. These phrases are often used interchangeably with “jam tomorrow” to describe situations where people are promised something that they may never receive.


On the other hand, some antonyms of “jam tomorrow” include immediate gratification, instant reward, and tangible benefits. These phrases represent situations where people receive something immediately without having to wait for it.

Cultural Insights:

The origins of this idiom can be traced back to Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking-Glass”, where he wrote about a character who was promised jam every day but never received it. In modern times, this phrase has become popularized as a way to describe political promises or business deals that seem too good to be true.

In some cultures such as Japan and China, there is a strong emphasis on delayed gratification and working hard towards long-term goals. Therefore, idioms like “jam tomorrow” may not hold as much significance in these cultures compared to Western societies where instant gratification is highly valued.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “jam tomorrow”

Exercise 1: Identifying Context

The first step in understanding the idiom “jam tomorrow” is to identify its context. This exercise will help you recognize situations where this idiom might be used. Read through a variety of texts, such as news articles, books, or even social media posts, and look for instances where someone mentions something that they promise will happen in the future but never actually delivers on that promise. Take note of these instances and try to understand why the person may have used this phrase.

Exercise 2: Role Play

This exercise involves role-playing different scenarios where someone might use the idiom “jam tomorrow.” Find a partner and take turns playing different roles. For example, one person could play a boss who promises their employee a raise in the future but never follows through while the other plays the employee who is disappointed by this broken promise. Practice using variations of this phrase in different contexts until you feel comfortable recognizing when it is being used and how it can affect people’s expectations.

Example Scenarios: Variations of “Jam Tomorrow”:
A politician promising better healthcare if elected “Pie in the sky”, “Empty promises”, “Smoke and mirrors”
A company offering stock options to employees “Carrot on a stick”, “False hope”, “Bait-and-switch”
A friend saying they’ll pay back money they owe next month “Hot air”, “All talk no action”, “Broken promises”

By practicing these scenarios, you will be able to recognize when someone is using the idiom “jam tomorrow” and understand its implications.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “jam tomorrow”

When using idioms, it’s important to use them correctly in order to avoid confusion or misunderstandings. The idiom “jam tomorrow” is no exception. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using this idiom:

Mistake #1: Using it Literally

The phrase “jam tomorrow” should not be taken literally. It does not mean that you will actually receive jam tomorrow. Instead, it means that someone is promising something good in the future, but there is no guarantee that it will actually happen.

Mistake #2: Overusing the Idiom

While idioms can be a fun way to spice up your language, overusing them can make you sound insincere or unprofessional. Use the idiom “jam tomorrow” sparingly and only when appropriate.

  • Do: He promised me a raise next year, but I know better than to count on jam tomorrow.
  • Avoid: I’ll get back to you with an answer soon – jam tomorrow!

Mistake #3: Mispronouncing or Misspelling the Idiom

The correct pronunciation of this idiom is “jamm tuh-mor-oh”, with emphasis on the second syllable of “tomorrow”. Make sure you’re saying it correctly so others can understand what you mean. Additionally, be careful not to misspell it as “jammy” or “tomorow”.

  • Correct: Don’t promise me jam tomorrow if you can’t deliver today.
  • Incorrect: Don’t promise me jammy tomorrow if you can’t deliver today.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be able to use the idiom “jam tomorrow” correctly and effectively in your language. Remember to use it appropriately and sparingly, and always make sure you’re pronouncing and spelling it correctly!


Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: