The Jig is Up - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a smart way to tell someone that their actions no longer fool you? If so, you could use "the jig is up." It's a way of telling someone that you're onto them, and they won't get away with their actions or behaviors any longer.

This post unpacks everything you need to know about this idiom's origin, meaning, and use.

The Jig is Up Meaning

The meaning of "the jig is up" is that someone discovered your ruse, trick, or plan. So, in other words, you're no longer fooling anyone. When someone tells you that the jig is up, it means that they uncovered your behavior and plans, and they're letting you know they caught you.

The meaning of the phrase can have lighthearted and serious overtones. For instance, you could say the jig is up to your sister in a nonchalant tone, or you could say it to a criminal in reference to them going to prison.

The Jig is Up Example Usage

"The accountant went through the books last week. She picked up the skimming operation; the jig is up for the guys in finance."

"We were right about to egg Mrs. Robinsons' house; then the old man showed up. Now the jig is up."

"You thought you could cheat on today's test with your iPhone, Johnny? Well, the jig is up."

"The jig is up; we caught your partners as they were entering the building."

"The jig is up, Mike. They know it was us."

"There's no way we can go back there now. The jig is up."

"Did you know the jig is up? Mr. Potter saw Peter stealing the wood from the workshop."

The Jig is Up Origin

"The jig is up" comes from the Irish and Scottish form of dancing known as "the jig." Dancing a jig usually occurs when someone is happy or trying to attract attention from a crowd. Developed in England during the 16th-century, it spread across the UK and Ireland and into Europe.

Eventually, the jig became the final sequence in the "Baroque" dance. So, the meaning of "the jig is up" refers to "the dance is over" or the "music stopped." An OED citation in Maryland states, "The jig is over with us."

Other language experts believe the word's current use extends back to 1590, where it refers to discovering the outcome of a practical joke. There is some speculation the phrase appeared in Elizabethan times in the late 16th century.

During this era, "jig" was a slang term for a practical joke. So, if "the jig is up," it means that someone exposes your trick or prank.

Phrases Similar to The Jig is Up

  • Caught red-handed.
  • The game is over.
  • It's over for you.
  • This is done.

Phrases Opposite to The Jig is Up

  • We got away with it.
  • We're still operating.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The jig is up.
  • The jig's up.

Ways People May Say The Jig is Up Incorrectly

People may use "the jig is up" incorrectly in referring to the "jig." For example, the jig would not be a legitimate business; it would be a shady enterprise or a side hustle. You can refer to the "jig" as a person, event, action, or venture, but with a negative undertone.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase The Jig is Up

You can use the phrase "the jig is up" in social and some professional settings. It suits use when referring to criminal or loose social behavior. So, saying "the jig is up" would have some negative connotation to whatever the "jig" is that speaker is referring to in the conversation.

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