Wish you were here


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Wish you were here'?

The archetypal message postcard message.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Wish you were here'?

‘Wish you were here’ has long been expressed in letters home by people on holiday. It is most often associated with postcards though. Postcards in the sense we now know them are picture postcards, that is, a picture, usually a scene from the locality of one’s holiday, on one side and a pre-printed layout, with spaces for a message and an address, on the other. These were introduced at the end of the 19th century. Prior to that there were cards, properly called postal cards, that were pre-stamped and printed with advertising or patriotic slogans and pictures.

In 1898 the American government allowed private postcards to be sent with one cent stamps. This was cheaper than the prevailing letter rate and began the widespread use of postcards by the public.

The ‘wish you were here’ sentiment soon became a cliché and appeared on a high percentage of cards, often preceded by ‘having a lovely time’. So much so that cards became available with the text pre-printed.

The British rock band Pink Floyd used the expression as the title of their hugely successful 1975 album. The record included a tribute to the founder member of the group Sid Barrett, who had left the group some years earlier with deteriorating mental health.

Trend of wish you were here in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.