What does the idiom "be on the cards" mean?

The phrase be on the cards is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of be on the cards.

Meaning of "be on the cards"


The phrase "be on the cards" is an idiom that is used to indicate that something is likely to happen, although not with absolute certainty. It is used to express expectation or the possibility of a certain outcome. This idiom is commonly used in British English.


The idiom "be on the cards" originates from the card game, bridge. It is derived from the phrase "turn up trumps", which dates back to the 1600s and originally referred to the card games of primero and trump. In these games, a player would win if they were able to turn up a trump card. This phrase was then adapted to mean the successful outcome of any undertaking or venture. Later, the phrase that we know today, "be on the cards", was adopted to mean the same thing.


The phrase "be on the cards" can be used to express expectation or the possibility of a certain outcome. It is usually used to indicate that something is likely to happen, but there is still some doubt or uncertainty about the final result. It can be used in a variety of contexts and does not necessarily have to refer to something negative. For example, it could be used to refer to a positive outcome, such as winning a prize. It can also be used to refer to an event or situation that is likely to occur in the future.

Example Sentences

  • "I think promotion might be on the cards for me at work."
  • "With such a good track record, a pay rise might be on the cards."
  • "I think another vacation is on the cards with the way things are going."

The meanings of the words in the "be on the cards" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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