Have these two phrases evolved independently, and how much do their meanings overlap?

Pork barrelling (as in "pork barrel politics") is pretty clear in its meaning, but how about gravy train?

Where did it come from, and what is its exact/ original meaning?


1 Answer 1


Both phrases have come about independently and have different meanings.


Meaning "money easily acquired" first attested 1910; gravy train (1927) was originally railroad slang for a short haul that paid well.

More history here.


gravy train
n. Slang
An occupation or other source of income that requires little effort while yielding considerable profit.


Pork barrel "state's financial resources" is 1909, on notion of food supply kept in a barrel (lit. sense from 1801); the shortened form pork in this sense is attested from 1862.


pork barrel
n. Slang
A government project or appropriation that yields jobs or other benefits to a specific locale and patronage opportunities to its political representative.

  • Thanks, very helpful. I was thinking about the shared connotation "comes without being properly earned or without proper credits" but that seems to be a bit too far fetched Oct 18, 2011 at 21:16
  • Tip: Etymonline.com is very useful for looking up origins and older meanings (etymologies) and of course dictionaries for looking up current meanings.
    – Hugo
    Oct 18, 2011 at 21:22

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