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What does the Expression "Gravy Train" Mean?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky

Many people have likely heard people say things like, "So, you're riding the gravy train." This phrase is generally used interchangeably with terms like "sitting pretty," or "living on Easy Street." It means that a person's life looks good and seems to be pretty easy, as far as the speaker is concerned. People may feel that the subject attracts opportunities or that things just fall in his lap when they use the above phrases in reference to the individual's life or business.

The term gravy train also refers to obtaining a windfall. Another related idiom phrase is "meal ticket." An heir who has inherited a great deal of money or a lottery winner may be said to be riding the gravy train. Another common use of the term is to describe a person’s ability to make a lot of money with a minimal investment of time, effort, or resources. Acting, singing, or otherwise performing, playing professional sports, creating an invention and collecting royalties, or making lucrative investments are often considered such activities.

Winning the lottery is an unexpected windfall.
Winning the lottery is an unexpected windfall.

The term riding the gravy train probably originated from phrases such as "everything else is gravy," which people sometimes use to describe a great deal of profit after expenses. Gravy is a rich, decadent, and fattening food, and the word is frequently used to describe luxuries or large amounts of money. A train ride is easy and relaxing, taking a person where he wants to go without any effort on his part.

Many times, a turn of phrase is derived from common words that can be expanded depending on how they are used or who is saying them, and gravy train is no exception. It's also the name of a national brand dry dog food. When one mixes in water, the coating on the kibbles makes gravy. The term is also used in various song lyrics, as any Pink Floyd fan knows.

Discussion Comments


This phrase helped with my homework assignment for Advanced Classes, in which we had to give a detailed explanation of the phrase. And I could not agree more with post 2, this phrase can be used negatively as well. Other than that, great explanation of the phrase!


This is a great explanation of the phrase gravy train. The phrase is positive and popular and has been used recently as a brand name by bingo sites.


Thanks. I couldn't understand it in Pink Floyd's song "Have a cigar," and now I can.


There is an implication that a person "riding the gravy train" is sharing in the success of a venture without inputting anything. Taken literally you can imagine a person riding along on a train they haven't paid for, doing nothing to drive the train and feasting on the gravy in the food carriage. For Pink Floyd it makes total sense. This is what most band managers do.


Does gravy train work on both sides of the Atlantic? I understand the Pink Floyd song using those lyrics was inspired by a meeting they had with a record executive in the US after they had hit it big.


Latte31- I agree with your definition of the gravy train meaning. When I usually hear the term gravy train though, I think of the dry dog food of the same name.


I also want to add that the phrase “on the gravy train” can also have negative connotations as someone who does not have initiative and is continually receiving assistance without performing any effort toward independence.

An example could be a college graduate that is living with parents who does not look for a job and continues to live as though they were a teenager because of the parent’s continual support.

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    • Winning the lottery is an unexpected windfall.
      By: zentilia
      Winning the lottery is an unexpected windfall.