We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Does "Icing on the Cake" Mean?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The “icing on the cake” is an idiom that carries at least two well-known, related meanings. It means that a positive or negative situation has been made either more positive or nore negative by the addition of another factor. A positive situation, for example, might be enhanced by a second good thing, making it even better. Like many idiomatic expressions, the true meaning behind the phrase is more easily discerned by considering the context in which the idiom is said or written.

Perhaps the positive meaning of “icing on the cake” is the more commonly used one. A person uses this saying when he already has something good, but another good thing comes along to make the first thing even better. Often, the “something good” is a situation, though it can refer to tangible objects, too. For example, if a newly married couple finds an apartment for rent within their budget, this is something good. If that apartment is equipped with a private washer and dryer for laundry, this makes it even better.

Somewhere along the way, the positive meaning behind this phrase morphed into a negative, sarcastic one. Similar to the positive version, a person uses this negative version when he already has something bad, but another bad thing comes along to make the situation worse than it already was. Also similar to the positive version, the “something bad” can be a situation or a tangible object. For example, if the same newly married couple in the affordable apartment with the private washer and dryer find out their apartment has a termite infestation, this is something bad. If they discover their private washer and dryer increase their water and electric bills higher than is affordable, this is the icing on the cake.

Typically, this negative version of the expression is used in an ironic way. The speaker or writer doesn’t actually want the listener or reader to think good things are being coupled with more good things. Rather, he’s using sarcasm to convey the opposite is the actual situation.

These days, people use this phrase in a variety of ways. For example, it’s not uncommon for bakery shops to use the saying to name their businesses, which is a quite obvious use of the expression. Other businesses, such as event organizers, use the expression as their business name in a more subtle way. The idea is that two good things are coming together with the help of that business’s services.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Buster29 — On Jul 01, 2014

For me, the expression works best when the "icing on the cake" is totally unexpected. I've had experiences at work where a complicated project finally gets done, and then we find out that it also came in under budget. The fact that it got done at all was good enough news for us. That's all we wanted to accomplish. The fact that we saved the company some money was more like icing on the cake.

By Inaventu — On Jun 30, 2014

I've heard this expression used sometimes when the "icing on the cake" is neither positive or negative. Once the original goal has been reached, anything else that happens would just be icing on the cake. Icing for cake is good, but it isn't always missed.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.