The Check is in the Mail: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
February 20, 2024

"The check is in the mail" is a phrase commonly used to indicate that payment has been sent and is on its way, but it has also become associated with skepticism and doubt. It's often used in contexts where there's some disbelief about whether the payment has been sent or not. For example, if someone owes you money and repeatedly says, "The check is in the mail," you might start to doubt whether they have actually sent it.

In short:

  • It means the payment has been made and is en route via postal mail.
  • It's often used to imply skepticism about the truthfulness of the statement.

What Does "The Check Is in the Mail" Mean?

"The check is in the mail" literally means that a check payment has been sent and should be expected to arrive soon. However, because it has been used frequently as an excuse for delayed payment, the phrase often carries a connotation of doubt or skepticism. It suggests that the speaker might be stalling or avoiding payment. Sometimes, it's used humorously to acknowledge a payment is overdue or playfully dodge a financial obligation.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It can be a straightforward statement about a payment being sent.
  • It is often used when the sender tries to reassure the recipient about an impending payment.
  • It can carry a connotation of unreliability or procrastination in payments.
  • Used humorously or sarcastically to acknowledge a delay in fulfilling a financial obligation.
  • Sometimes, it is used in situations unrelated to finance as a general expression of delay or procrastination.

Where Does "The Check Is in the Mail" Come From?

The phrase "the check is in the mail" has been a part of English vernacular for several decades, particularly in the context of business and personal finance. Its exact origin is unclear, but it gained popularity in the late 20th century, especially in the United States, as a common response to inquiries about payments. It has gradually taken on a somewhat cynical tone due to its frequent use as an excuse for delayed payments.

10 Examples of "The Check Is in the Mail" in Sentences

Here are examples showing the use of "the check is in the mail" in various contexts:

  • Don't worry; the check is in the mail; you should receive it soon.
  • Whenever I ask him about the rent, he says, "The check is in the mail."
  • I know I said the check is in the mail, but I'll be honest: I forgot to send it.
  • He said, "Long time no hear, "and the check was in the mail.
  • "The check is in the mail," she joked when her friend reminded her of the money she owed.
  • It's becoming clear that "the check is in the mail" is just his way of avoiding payment.
  • As a freelancer, I often hear "the check is in the mail" from clients who are late on payments.
  • She thought it was a good omen when he said the check was in the mail.
  •  He tried to milk him dry, always saying the check was in the mail.
  • The check is in the mail; he lied, and it reminded me of his past promises.

Examples of "The Check Is in the Mail" in Pop Culture

In pop culture, "the check is in the mail" is often used to depict scenarios involving financial dealings or humorous situations:

  • The film "The Check Is in the Mail..." (1986) humorously navigates the frustrations of suburban life, including the infamous promise of delayed payments.
  • In "The Anatomy of Melancholy," Robert Burton humorously uses the phrase "the check is in the mail" to comment on procrastination and unfulfilled promises.
  • In the movie "To Live and Die in L.A." (1985), the character Carl Cody cynically quips, "And the check is in the mail, and I love you..." illustrating deceit and empty promises.
  • In their song "Time to Get Ill," the Beastie Boys " includes the line "And I'm out on bail, the check is in the mail," blending humor and rebellion.
  • "The Check Is in the Mail," a song by Andre' Maurice, explores themes of trust and skepticism in financial promises.
  • An article from The Boston Globe discusses the delays in Mass Save rebates, humorously titling it: "The check is in the mail? You may be waiting awhile for that Mass Save rebate." 

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "The Check Is in the Mail"

Alternative phrases with similar meanings:

  • Payment is on its way
  • I've sent the payment
  • It's in transit
  • The money's coming
  • You'll get it soon
  • It's already sent
  • It's in the post
  • On its way to you
  • Just mailed it
  • Dispatched the payment

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "The Check Is in the Mail":

  • What does "the check is in the mail" mean?

"The check is in the mail" literally means that a payment has been sent by mail, but it's often used to indicate that there might be a delay or skepticism regarding the payment.

  • Is "the check is in the mail" a truthful statement?

It can be, but due to its frequent use as an excuse for delayed payment, it's sometimes taken with skepticism.

  • Why is "the check is in the mail" often not taken seriously?

Because it has been overused as a way to stall for time or avoid admitting that a payment hasn't been made yet.

  • Can "the check is in the mail" be used in formal business contexts?

While it can be used in business contexts, it's generally more appropriate for informal situations due to its casual tone and potential for skepticism.

  • Is this phrase becoming less common with digital payments?

Yes, with the rise of digital payments, the phrase is less literal but might still be used figuratively.

  • Can it be used in a humorous context?

Yes, "the check is in the mail" is often used humorously to acknowledge a delay in fulfilling a financial obligation.

  • Does "the check is in the mail" always relate to financial transactions?

Primarily, yes, but it can be used metaphorically in

other contexts to indicate delay or avoidance.

  • How should one respond if they doubt the truth of "the check is in the mail"?

A polite follow-up or asking for a confirmation or tracking number would be appropriate.

  • Is "the check is in the mail" used globally?

It is mainly used in English-speaking countries, especially where checks are a common form of payment.

  • What's a modern equivalent of "the check is in the mail"?

A modern equivalent could be "I've initiated the online transfer" or "The payment has been processed."

Final Thoughts About "The Check Is in the Mail"

"The check is in the mail" is a phrase that has evolved from a straightforward statement about payment to one that often carries a hint of skepticism or humor. It reflects the nuances of financial dealings and the human tendency to use language playfully or evasively.

To recap:

  • It's a phrase that originally indicated a payment had been sent but is now often associated with delay or skepticism.
  • Used in various contexts, from business to personal finance, and sometimes in a humorous or sarcastic manner.
  • While its literal use may decline with digital payments, it remains a part of the vernacular in English-speaking cultures.
  • It exemplifies how language can evolve in meaning and tone over time.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Copyright © 2024 - U.S. Dictionary
Privacy Policy
magnifier