I frequently read or hear the term "up-and-coming", e. g. "the up-and-coming superstar". I understand what it means, and that it is often used colloquially. But how does the "and" make sense here? This superstar of the future is neither coming nor up.

It seems to me that "upcoming" (i.e. rising) would fit much better, and I also have heard this used before, so I think it is probably the origin of the term. I am mostly interested in how this term came into place and whether it is grammatical.

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    "Upcoming" is already taken. It has a different meaning. And "up and coming" makes a certain amount of sense, as your superstar is both popular and becoming more so.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 11:15
  • Good Q, but needs homework. Look up both in a good dictionary and compare use cases. "This superstar of the future is up (set to grow) and coming (emerging)." HTH.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 11:22
  • @HotLicks Thank you for your input. That would be how I understand the term, too, but because it is always (as far as I have seen) hyphenated, it does not seem like it just means that those two attributes apply to the subject. One hypothesis of mine is that "up-and-coming" could be short for "up as well as upcoming". Could you elaborate on how the meaning of "upcoming" deviates? Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 11:50
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    "Upcoming" is primarily used in the sense of "in the near future".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:03

2 Answers 2


Up and coming is an unusual construction, unlike, say off and running, a term taken from horseracing, where the horses are off when the pistol fires and then they’re running, i.e., its constituent parts can be analyzed to arrive at the meaning of the phrase. Something or someone who’s up and coming is coming up in terms of success, fame, or reputation, but something is added in this construction as opposed to your more “logical” choice of upcoming. As you pointed out, analyzing the constituent parts of up-and-coming yields nothing: the expression must be parsed as a single idiom.

Both upcoming and up-and-coming are subject to hype, where publicity or an agent might refer to an actor with only a few unremarkable bit parts as either, when in truth, his career is going nowhere.

An upcoming artist or business may have some success to look back on, but they are more likely at the very beginning of a career one hopes will eventually be successful:

I wouldn't advise any upcoming writer to use a vanity press for several reasons… — Paul A. Lynch, The Writer's Guide (Book Two), 2017.

A writer contemplating various means of getting published may have several works hiding in a desk drawer, but is not yet published. A well-reviewed first novel, say, could promote them to up-and-coming. If that single publication is extremely successful, they are no longer up and coming: they’re “established.”

In the early-'60's, also late-'50's, all of a sudden there was a whole bunch of new possibilities for an upcoming musician. — Bob Rusch, Cadence 20, 7-12 (1994), 21.

He was probably one of her brother's many business associates or better yet, another upcoming businessman who lived to curry favors from her powerful brother. — Lara Daniels, Love at Dawn, 2014, 26.

The late 50s–early 60s post-Elvis explosion of rock ‘n’ roll offered many opportunities for musicians just starting their careers. In the second example, if the businessman were up-and-coming instead, the brother might have seen him as competition instead of the sycophant his sister sees.

Up-and-coming means a step beyond initial success or a single success so remarkable that one anticipates career growth more rapid than steady.

There is always a temptation for an up-and-coming businessman to try and go too far too fast. This is particularly true for a new business. The same is true of many companies — they try to grow so quickly that their quality levels and management depth suffers. — Summary: Management the Marks & Spencer Way_, 2014.

An initially successful business or businessman should take care not to rise too quickly.

She was well connected within the industry and had close relationships with most every established and up-and-coming designer on Seventh Avenue. — Robin Givhan, The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History, 2015.

While an upcoming designer might also work on Seventh Ave., they would be fairly unknown and certainly without influence. An up-and-coming designer, however, is one to watch.

06.05.2018 · At some point or another, even Meryl Streep was an up-and-coming actress, with a few memorable performances under her belt and the potential of Hollywood laid out before her. — The Best Up And Coming Actors | Complex

Streep could only be termed an upcoming actress in her first stage performances. In film, there was The Deer Hunter (1978), then wham! Kramer vs. Kramer the next year. But if you consider her still up-and-coming until The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981) or her Oscar for Sophie’s Choice in 1982, then this would be the “some point or another.”

Word History of Up and Coming

Unlike the modern usage, which emerges in American newspapers around the turn of the 20th c., the 19th c. up and coming consists of a statal up, as in ‘awake, alert; excited, eager’ and coming as a state of motion with no specific direction, but simply ‘on the move’. Its antonym would be something like “down and immobile.” Chorus girls, boxers and sports teams, supporters of electoral candidates, even dogs and turkeys can be described as up and coming with no career path even remotely implied: the 19th c. adjective phrase means energetic, lively, outgoing, or some other flavor of up.

Thus even quite mature men in well established careers can still be described as up and coming:

This account, in addition to certain recent events in which Mr. Dana [ed., New York Sun, aged 70] participated with some vigor, will have a tendency to counteract any impression Mr. Cleveland may have made in charging the editor of the Sun with senility and mental paresis. According to this and other trustworthy information Mr. Dana is still “up and coming.” — Indianapolis Journal, 9 May 1890.

When a man has withstood the buffets of the world for sixty years and is still “up and coming,” he usually considers himself “a wise old dog,”... The Weekly Times-Record (Valley City, ND), 29 Jan. 1920.

In the 20th c. up and coming, up is directional, guiding the metaphoric motion along an ascending path toward success, fame, or social/economic significance. This semantic change leaves the conjunction as an otherwise inexplicable vestige of the 19th c. whose sole purpose now is to fill out the rhythm. By the 1930s, the old phrase with a new meaning was everywhere while the earlier sense had all but vanished.

The earlier up and coming, however, could be parsed similarly to off/up and running with the conjunction indicating a sequence of states. This does not mean that 19th c. speakers thought of the expression as one state following another instead of a single, compound adjective, only that the constituent parts make sense when analyzed separately.

When I preach the gospel to you, you all go to sleep; but the moment I go to playing the devil, you're all wide awake, up and coming like a rush of hornets with a pole in their nest. —Sunbury American (PA), 28 April 1849.

First alert, then all afrenzy: this vivid simile comparing a congregation’s excitement hearing fire and brimstone preaching to a disturbed hornet nest may have been why this article appeared in newspapers across the country for the next twelve years.

Indiana. “Hoosierdom” is up and coming. The telegraphic reports thus far are very meager, but they indicate the overthrow of Lecompton and Bill English. — The Tiffin Tribune (Tiffin OH), 15 Oct.1858.

The eager excitement in Indiana is the expectation that Democrats in free states who voted to allow Kansas to enter the Union as a slave state under the “Lecompton” Constitution would be tossed out of office by candidates from a new political party: the Republicans. Most were, but William H. English retained his seat.

Election enthusiasm is described in similar fashion seventy years later:

The only conclusion we can reach is that the Smith people are up and coming and that up to this time there is great apathy among the supporters of Hoover. — Steamboat Pilot (Steamboat Springs CO), 24 Aug. 1928.

Theatrical performances and performers can be up and coming without any reference to a successful run or a career path:

All in the production were up and coming whenever they were on the stage, and there was never a dull moment. — Rock Island Argus ( IL), 21 Oct. 1903.

The music is peppy and tuneful, the cast well chosen and the chorus girls up and coming. — Bronxville Press (NY), 11 Oct. 1929.

Unless they work in film and television, dogs can only be up and coming in the 19th c. sense:

Talk about canine intelligence, these clever dogs set a new record in that line. They are up and coming all the time, one symphony of motion, and do everything but actually talk, and it seems they almost do that. — San Bernardino Sun, 7 Mar. 1911.

If you are making the selection from a litter, let your preference be for one of the most active, an up-and-coming small fellow [34]

“Everybody loves a Cairn,” they say, with perfect truth. It is hard to imagine a person not being strongly attracted to this bright, up-and-coming_]18 little terrier whose snapping eyes and sharp, inquisitive muzzle seem ever ready for whatever the ensuing moment may bring. [122] — Robert Stell Lemmon, The Puppy Book, 1924.

When describing people individually, the phrase can suggest an energetic, extroverted personality: up and coming as outgoing:

… but the officer felt a throb of the round, white arm, which laid so confidingly near his blue coat, aud felt assured that though not quite so demonstrative, or as he would term it, “up and coming,” in her nature as her lively companion, Miss Lizzie would be an equally fascinating young lady upon a longer acquaintance. — “The Connecticut Captain, And how he was caught. A Tale of the War,” Cambridge Chronicle (MA), 16, No. 32, 10 August 1861.

The Vergennes Vermonter says : They are to have a sheet and pillow case frolic at Academy Hall, Middlebury, on Tuesday evening next, Jan. 12th. Of course the Chapman boys are the prime movers. We wonder what they would do in the staid town of Middlebury, if it were not the “up and coming” Chapman Bros. — The Middlebury Register (VT), 12 Jan. 1875.

An adjacent advertisement for the Chapman Bros. clothing store does not suggest the two were up and coming in today’s sense, but were energetic, outgoing people who enjoyed organizing social events. A sheet and pillowcase frolic, I have since discovered, is a fancy dress party where all costumes are to be made from bedlinens.

Yet this does not mean that she may not be a breezy, out-doors little somebody. In fact, we would not like her if she were not rather “up and coming.” The American girl is not prone to be lacking in “go” and sparkle. — Christine Terhune Herrick, “Hints on Training of the Young Girl,” Herald Democrat (Leadville CO), 21 Feb. 1904.

“ … By jingo, she is a more worthy member of the clan than any woman we have in the family. I was all for taking her in because she is so gol darned pretty and up-and-coming.” — Emma Speed Sampson, The Comings of Cousin Ann, 1923.

Although dictionary.com lists this excerpt as an “historical” example for 20 c. up and coming, it actually carries the earlier meaning here. The character being discussed, Cousin Judith, barely supports herself by making box lunches for truckers and selling cosmetics, and while she may be “industrious,” what is being admired here is her incredible energy and outgoing personality.

How easily the modern sense could arise from the old is shown by this glowing description of Southern women:

THE YOUNG WOMEN OF THE SOUTH are not sitting in sackcloth and ashes, pondering or pouting over any dismal past. They are “up and coming,” as thoroughly determined to gain front seats in American life as the maidens of “Down East" and “Out West.” They are crowding every open door of superior education, and are not going to be satisfied with the regulation fashionable boarding-school, or the superficial imitation of foreign training. —Memphis Daily Appeal, 11 Sept. 1881.

If you accept my antonym as “down and immobile,” sitting in sackcloth and ashes pondering the dismal past of the Civil War should certainly qualify as well. Yet with the added nuance of ambition to participate fully in American life and modern education, these women would also be up and coming in the contemporary sense.

A similarly ambiguous use of the phrase occurs in a Vermont newspaper:

The Essex Record has the following to say about St. Johnsbury, which we believe is quite true, "St. Johnsbury is up and coming and her people are forgetting their past bad investments and are laying out more money at home than ever.” — St. Johnsbury Caledonian (VT), 17 Jan. 1900.

Is this village now on the way up with public spending or just on the move again after bad investments?

In the same year, the Washington Post (by way of the the Indianapolis Journal, 3 June 1900), proclaims “Texas Up and Coming” very much in the 20th c. sense. The article records a few Texas-style hyperboles by Edward “Colonel” H. R. Green, the colorful Massachusetts-born millionaire who made a fortune in Texas railroads. Despite recent floods on the Brazos and Colorado, harvests would “break all records.” And the 1900 census would show a tremendous population boom in the state: “a total of quite 40,000,000 [sic] souls.” He also foresees a time as “we grow in wealth and population and enlightenment” that Texas would become a competitive, two-party state.

The 2017 estimated population of Texas is 28.3 million and folks are still waiting for Texas to be a true two-party state like Florida or Ohio.

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    I don't recall ever reading something where "upcoming" was used in the sense of "up and coming". I would regard it as a tupo if I saw it.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 1:13

From up meaning

  • "going up" is from 1784. From 1815 as "excited, exhilarated, happy," hence "enthusiastic, optimistic." Up-and-coming "promising" is from 1848.


  • come up "arise as a subject of attention," 1844


According to Dictionary.com up and coming is

  • An Americanism dating back to 1840–50
  • The asker is expected to do as much of background research, though.
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 11:23
  • These are among the dictionary entries that I found, too. Unfortunately they focus on what the term means and to when they date back, but they do not explain the intrinsinc meaning. The comment by "Hot Licks" comes close to what I am looking for, but I am not sure yet whether that's the full answer. Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 11:45
  • @RaimundKrämer - I think it is the combination of the meaning of the two terms cited above. Once the expression took off, quite a long ago, it developed its own connotation, probably what you call "intrinsic meaning".
    – user 66974
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:11
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    @RaimundKrämer - as for the structure, it was coined along the line of similar expressions such as down-and-out or spic-and-span for instance.
    – user 66974
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:17

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