Jump the Shark – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

The idiom jump the shark means that a TV show, brand, or any ongoing project has passed its peak and is now declining in quality or relevance. It’s a fairly new idiom, entering the mainstream back in the 1970s.

Idioms are phrases or expressions whose meaning cannot be understood from the ordinary meanings of their individual words. They fill our language with layers of meaning and historical context. But they only work when used correctly. So, read on and find out where this term came from and how it’s supposed to be used in a sentence.

Jump the Shark Meaning Explained

Jump the Shark – Idiom Meaning and Origin

When a creative endeavor or brand jumps the shark, it’s a signal that the creators are out of ideas and are resorting to gimmicks or drastic changes to maintain interest. Unfortunately, these often backfire and indicate a decline in quality.

When you say something has jumped the shark, you’re claiming it’s reached a point where it can no longer maintain its initial quality, credibility, or popularity and is now in decline. It’s that awkward moment when your favorite indie hard-rock band suddenly switches gears and releases a mainstream pop album. Yeah, it’s not cool. I’m looking at you, Sugar Ray.

Origin and Etymology of Jumped the Shark

Jump the Shark Ngram
Jump the shark usage trend.

This idiom comes from the 1970s, so it’s fairly new in terms of idioms. In an episode of the hit TV show Happy Days, Fonzie—clad in his trademark leather jacket—literally jumps over a shark while waterskiing. It was absolutely ridiculous, and critics and fans agree: this was the moment the show started to decline. Hence, the term “jump the shark” took on a life of its own.

Synonyms for Jump the Shark

For those times when you need another way to say it’s all going downhill, use one of these alternatives to jump the shark.

  • Sell out
  • Go downhill
  • Decline
  • Lose steam
  • Hit rock bottom

Jump the Shark Examples in a Sentence

Jump the Shark – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • That sitcom jumped the shark when they made the mailman the central character.
  • My favorite restaurant jumped the shark when they replaced the chef with one that used frozen veggies.
  • “The brand really jumped the shark with that disastrous marketing campaign,” he sighed.
  • The band’s latest album seems like they’re jumping the shark with those odd collaborations.
  • The software platform jumped the shark when it cluttered the interface with useless ads.
  • The artist’s latest exhibit proved that he hasn’t jumped the shark yet.
  • I loved that TV show, but the alien episode really felt like they were jumping the shark.
  • That pop singer jumped the shark when she ventured into heavy metal.
  • The conference jumped the shark when they invited pseudo-scientists as speakers.
  • “If they’re making a prequel at this point, then the franchise has probably jumped the shark,” my husband complained.

There’s Always Another Shark to Jump

Jump the shark is a great term to use, whether you’re binge-watching a series or debating the latest album drops. Just remember that knowing when something has jumped the shark is half the battle. Be sure to jump over to our site and read about some more awesome idioms like this one.