The idioms ride on someone’s coattails and coattail effect are products of an evolution in meaning. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the meanings of the terms ride on someone’s coattails and coattail effect, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
To ride on someone’s coattails means to become successful by attaching yourself to another’s success. A person who rides someone’s coattails is usually considered unable to attain success on his own. Coattails are the lower flaps on the back of a man’s jacket. The idea behind ride someone’s coattails is of someone holding onto the back of someone’s jacket in order to be pulled along without exerting any effort of his own. Related phrases are rides someone’s coattails, rode someone’s coattails, riding someone’s coattails. The idiom first appeared around 1600 in a different form, on one’s own coattail. This meant to do something at one’s own expense. The current idiom in use, ride someone’s coattails did not come into use until the mid-1900s, and is generally considered an American term.
The coattail effect is the phenomenon wherein a popular politician in higher office attracts votes for candidates of the same party in lower offices. This usually occurs because voters who greatly support the popular politician turn out to cast ballots in greater numbers, and voters generally support the same political party across the board.
“It’s just a gag!” would be more believable as a laugh line if it didn’t also come from someone who definitely sees that Trump’s coattails are a one-way ticket to instant career advancement. (The Washington Examiner)
That’s an ample war chest to take on Hollingsworth, the multi-millionaire officeholder who has firmly hitched his political coattails to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” platform. (The News and Tribune)
“Historically, it has been a strong office market, and it seems like sites have been hard to come by to build hotels, so I think with medical offices also experiencing growth in the last five years, the hospitality scene has been following the coattail effect.” (The Knoxville News Sentinel)