Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard people use the phrase “jonesing”?

Do you want to understand phrases such as this so that you can use them in conversation?

We’re going to help you to understand what this means, how to use it, and also the thought process to use when trying out a new phrase.

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Here is a question from a listener:

Hi Lindsay and Michelle,

I hope you’re doing well. I just wanted to thank you very much for your great show. It’s the best ESL podcast ever!

I have a question for you. The other day, in a movie, I heard the phrase “I’m jonesing for a cup of coffee”. I guess it means something like to have a strong desire or craving for something. Now my question is: Do we use it only for drinks and food? What other occasions could I use this?

Thank you for your help,

Maral NZ

Understanding This Sort of Phrase

When you say that you are “jonesing” for something, it means that you are craving something.

When you look it up in the dictionary, it tells you that it started with Mr. Jones or Jones revolving around heroine or addiction. Go here to read more.

There is also a belief that the term originated from Great Jones Street in New York City in the 1960’s because that was a hangout for heroine addicts. Go here to read about that.

Then it started changing meaning over time and became more mainstream and applicable to other things beyond drugs and alcohol.

Now it means to crave something.

This applies to many different things and has become slang and used as such in conversation.

Though there are other ways to talk about cravings, you will also find that this phrase is common and creative.

So How Do You Use This?

This may have started to be used about food and drink, as that’s where the usage seemed to become more widespread.

Though it is still used to talk about food and drinks, it has become much broader than just that.

It can be used to talk about activities and so much more than just food and drink.

It certainly isn’t used only to talk about addiction in the negative form, such as with drugs–it’s much more mainstream and innocent than that.

“I’m jonesing for a candy bar, but I won’t eat one because I’m trying to be healthy.”

“I’m jonesing to go on a huge shopping spree. I hate all my clothes!”

Using This Sort of Thing In Everyday Conversation

This is one of those things where you have to decide what words and slang will be in your vocabulary.

We have some tips on that today which can help you to evaluate and get into the practice of using such words and phrases.

Things to think about:

  1. Where did you hear it first? What was the movie? Is it a new movie? What was the character like who said it?
  2. Have you heard it in other places? Have you heard people saying it frequently? When you look it up and see the meaning, do you recognize other ways people use the words (for example, do you hear other words more frequently, like craving?)
  3. Could it be regional? Some slang is only popular in certain parts of the country. Look into this when discovering new slang!
  4. Are you willing to take risks? What is the worst that will happen? It’s worth trying a new phrase or asking a friend about it. If someone says jonesing to me, it stands out as being different, which can be a good thing!

Though you may not think through every step of that with a new phrase, this is a good checklist to consider.

Then you can figure out how and when to use this given phrase.


When you hear a new word or phrase or slang expression that you haven’t used before, you can start to learn great ways to use it in conversation.

There are lots of ways to decide if you are going to incorporate this into your vocabulary.

This is one of those words or phrases that can be fun to start using.

Slang is definitely a part of conversation, and this is a great way to utilize it.

There’s nothing wrong with trying out something new!

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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