Understanding the Idiom: "jury is out" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The phrase “jury is out” refers to a situation where a decision has not yet been made or there is still uncertainty about something. It can be used when discussing various topics such as politics, sports, business, or even personal relationships. When someone says that the jury is out on a particular issue, they are indicating that more information or evidence needs to be gathered before reaching a conclusion.

The origin of this idiom dates back to the 17th century when juries were first introduced in English courts. After hearing all the evidence presented by both sides in a trial, jurors would retire to deliberate and reach their verdict. During this time period, juries were often sequestered from society until they reached their decision. Therefore, if someone asked about the outcome of a trial while the jury was still deliberating, the response would be “the jury is still out”.

In modern times, this expression has evolved beyond its legal context and can now refer to any situation where there is indecision or uncertainty. It’s important to note that saying “the jury is out” doesn’t necessarily mean that one side will eventually win over another; rather it implies that more information needs to be gathered before making any conclusions.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “jury is out”

The phrase “jury is out” has been used for centuries to express uncertainty about a decision or verdict. Its origins can be traced back to the legal system, where a jury would deliberate on a case and then deliver their verdict. However, the exact origin of this idiom remains unclear.

Some scholars believe that the phrase may have originated in ancient Rome, where juries were known as iudices. The Latin phrase “iudex non calculat” (the judge does not count) was often used to indicate that it was up to the jury to make a decision based on their own judgment and not on any preconceived notions or biases.

The Evolution of the Phrase

Over time, this Latin phrase evolved into various idioms in different languages. In English, “jury is out” first appeared in print in 1860s and quickly became popular among lawyers and judges alike.

In modern times, this idiom has taken on broader meanings beyond its original legal context. It can now be used to describe any situation where there is uncertainty about an outcome or decision.

The Significance of the Idiom

The continued use of this idiom highlights our ongoing fascination with juries and their role in delivering justice. It also underscores our tendency as humans to seek certainty even when it may not be possible.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “jury is out”

When it comes to idioms, there are often variations in their usage depending on the context and region. The same can be said for the idiom “jury is out”. While its general meaning remains consistent, there are several variations that exist in different parts of the English-speaking world.

Variation 1: “The jury’s still out”

One common variation of this idiom is “the jury’s still out”. This phrase is often used when referring to a situation where a decision has not yet been made or when an outcome is uncertain. For example, if someone asks about the success of a new product launch, one might respond by saying “the jury’s still out” until more data becomes available.

Variation 2: “The verdict is still out”

Another variation of this idiom is “the verdict is still out”. This phrase carries a similar meaning to the previous variation but places emphasis on waiting for a final decision or conclusion. It can also be used to express uncertainty about something that has already happened. For instance, if someone asks whether a particular movie was good or bad, one might say “the verdict is still out” until they have had time to fully process their thoughts.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “jury is out”

When it comes to understanding idioms, it’s important to explore their various synonyms and antonyms. These words can help provide a deeper understanding of the idiom’s meaning and usage in different contexts. Additionally, examining cultural insights related to an idiom can shed light on its origins and evolution over time.


Some possible synonyms for “jury is out” include “undecided,” “uncertain,” “up in the air,” or “pending.” Each of these phrases conveys a sense of ambiguity or lack of resolution that aligns with the idea behind the original idiom.


On the other hand, some antonyms for “jury is out” might include terms like “decided,” “conclusive,” or “settled.” These words suggest a clear outcome or resolution has been reached, which stands in contrast to the uncertainty implied by the original phrase.

Cultural Insights:

The phrase “jury is out” likely originates from legal settings where juries are tasked with deciding whether someone is guilty or innocent. The notion that a verdict could be uncertain or up in the air reflects how complex legal cases can be and how difficult it can be to reach a definitive conclusion. Today, however, this idiom has expanded beyond legal contexts and is often used more broadly to describe any situation where there’s still debate about what will happen next.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “jury is out”

  • Exercise 1: Identify the context
  • Read a sentence or a paragraph that contains the idiom “jury is out” and identify the context in which it has been used. Try to understand what message the author is trying to convey through this phrase.

  • Exercise 2: Create your own sentences
  • Create your own sentences using the idiom “jury is out”. Use different contexts such as sports, politics, science, etc. This exercise will help you practice using this idiom in various situations.

  • Exercise 3: Match idioms with their meanings
  • List down a few idioms related to uncertainty or indecisiveness such as “on the fence”, “in limbo”, etc. Match them with their meanings and try to differentiate them from each other. This exercise will help you understand how different idioms can be used interchangeably but have slightly different meanings.

  • Exercise 4: Role-play scenarios
  • Create role-playing scenarios where one person uses the idiom “jury is out” while another tries to guess its meaning based on context clues. This exercise will help you practice using this idiom conversationally.

By practicing these exercises regularly, you can improve your knowledge of English idioms and become more confident in using them effectively in everyday conversations.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “jury is out”

When using idioms, it’s important to understand their meaning and usage in context. The idiom “jury is out” means that a decision has not yet been made or a conclusion has not yet been reached. However, there are common mistakes that people make when using this idiom.

One mistake is using it incorrectly in situations where a decision has already been made. For example, saying “The jury is out on whether or not I passed my exam” after receiving your test results would be incorrect because the decision has already been made.

Another mistake is using it too often or in inappropriate situations. Using the idiom excessively can dilute its impact and make it sound cliché. It’s also important to use it only when appropriate, as using it in unrelated contexts can confuse listeners and detract from its intended meaning.

Lastly, another mistake to avoid is misusing the tense of the verb “to be”. The correct form of this idiom uses present tense (“the jury is out”), while past tense (“the jury was out”) implies that a decision has already been made.

Leave a Reply

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