Johnny-come-lately is an American expression which has been used since at least the 1890s.

Meaning Of Idiom ‘Johnny-Come-Lately’

The idiomatic term Johnny-come-lately is meant to express disapproval. A johnny-come-lately is a person who joins something after it has already started and is more successful than warranted or expresses knowledge or expertise that their limited experience does not warrant. It usually refers to an undeserving newcomer or a novice who is arrogant, i.e. an ‘upstart.’

Example Of Use

“I’ve been working for this company for fifteen years and today some Johnny-come-lately was promoted ahead of me.”


The origin of Johny-come-lately is unknown. It was in use in the United States as early as the 1890’s. See the related idiom Johnny-on-the-spot.

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