Coming Down the Pike vs. Coming Down the Pipe

Idioms easily make your English sound better. But sometimes, you’d rather not use them because you don’t know the correct term. One example of a confusing idiom is coming down the pike or pipe.

Learn the difference between coming down the pike and coming down the pipe, and which one is correct among them!

The idiom meaning soon to happen or appear was originally coming down the pike, not coming down the pipe, but both forms are now widely used and understood.

In coming down the pike, the noun pike is short for turnpike, which is a broad road, sometimes a toll road.

Coming Down the Pike Meaning

Coming down the pike is an idiom that means in the course of events. Here, pike is short for turnpike. When something is coming down the pike, it means future events are happening soon. 

Where Does the Term Coming Down the Pike Come From?

In the phrase coming down the pike, pike is the shortening of turnpike. The term refers to chief roads with a toll booth or toll gate that charge users driving on them. 

Turnepike in Middle English referred to a revolving frame with studded spikes. The word may also come from the French term torner, which means to turn away. It served as a barrier to avoid traffic from occurring until the driver or horseman pays by the toll house. 

Modern turnpikes still have barriers, but they are not spiked anymore. Nowadays, a person wearing a bright orange or yellow vest usually will ask for your payment. 

The turnpike in question brings many unforeseen events since they are major roads that link cities. Visitors, opportunities, and threats are awaiting at the toll collector. Therefore, the use of coming down the pike means the arrival of the unknown or upcoming event

Examples: 

  • Every skincare product coming down the pike is always labeled “ten times more effective” than older products.
  • I’ve heard about the celebrity’s new brand deals coming down the pike.

Coming Down the Pike Synonym

Here are other words and phrases you can say instead of coming down the pike

  • Come about.
  • Unfold.
  • Go on.
  • Transpire.
  • Come to pass.
  • Befall.
  • Come someone’s way.
  • Center around.
  • Go down.
  • Come off.

Who Uses Coming Down the Pike?

pike vs turnpike

Pike being a shorthand for turnpike might be famous only in certain towns that use it. For example, those close to Walleye Pike or Zebulon Pike might use pike more than turnpike. Meanwhile, the word turnpike is older but still widely used.

The uncommon use of pike also explains why many mistake the phrase for coming down the pipe. It portrays an image of something moving along a pipe. Take a look at this example:

  • Correct: We have many bookings coming down the pike.
  • Incorrect: We have many bookings coming down the pipe. 

Aside from referring to the anticipation of future events, it also suggests a conflation within the pipeline. In the pipeline is an idiom that means being developed. So, if a project is still in the pipeline, it means it’s still awaiting completion. 

Pipes and pipelines connote a continuous flow, which is why music is always piped in a shop. It can also be a baseball term—for example, a team’s pipeline of prospects. 

Examples of Coming Down the Pike

Down the pike is more common among news publications than down the pipe.

A showdown over the debt limit is coming down the pike. [NY Times Economix blog]

An important aspect of succeeding in business is knowing what the competition is up to and what’s coming down the pike. [Washington Post Capital Business blog]

Further, officials indicated that several more interest rate increases would be coming down the pike this year, perhaps a total of six. [Clayton News Daily]

But some writings also use down the pipe.

Luck is the all-world, can’t miss, best quarterback prospect to be coming down the pipe in decades. [Toronto Sun]

More austerity coming down the pipe doesn’t bode well in the months ahead.  [Business Insider]

For someone so neurotically buttoned-up and overanalytical, Mitchell’s moments of reckless abandon make some of the most satisfying of the entire show. So, let’s go down the rabbit hole and appreciate some of the best moments of Mitchell. [Collider]

As part of this, The Times’ Deborah Vankin takes a look at what’s coming down the pipe at downtown L.A.’s newest art institution, the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. [Los Angeles Times]

Coming Down the Pike is the Correct Phrase

When something is coming down the pike, it means something is about to happen. The phrase references any main road with a toll gate that connects different towns, bringing many opportunities and freights. 

But don’t be surprised if you see someone saying down the pipe. The phrase stresses what has come instead of what is coming. Learn how to use other idioms in your writing such as blowing up one’s phone or blaze a trail!

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