On-the-wagon Definition


(idiomatic) Abstaining from drinking any alcoholic drink, usually in the sense of having given it up (as opposed to never having partaken).

1917: “Thank you, but; – er – I’m on the wagon, you know,” declined the youth. — Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Oakdale Affair.

By extension, maintaining a program of self-improvement or abstinence from some other undesirable habit.

He’s been on the smoking cessation wagon for two weeks now.

Origin of On-the-wagon

  • Early 20th century American temperance movement. Originally “on the water wagon” or “on the water cart”, referring to carts used to hose down dusty roads.

    From Wiktionary

  • Alice Hegan Rice, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, 1901, p. 124

    From Wiktionary

  • Compare New York Anti-Saloon League:

    From Wiktionary

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