out of pocket


out of pocket


  • paying for something with one’s own personal money rather than being reimbursed by someone else.
  • to being unreachable or not able to be contacted, typically for a certain period.
  • behaving or acting in a manner that is inappropriate and unprofessional.
  • having insufficient funds or being financially drained.

Example Sentences

  1. She had to cover the medical bills out of pocket because her insurance didn’t cover them. (Personal expense)
  2. After paying all the bills at month end, I’m completely out of pocket. (Financially strapped)
  3. When the travel budget was cut, he ended up paying for the hotel out of pocket. (Personal expense)
  4. After the unexpected home repairs, he found himself completely out of pocket. (Financially strapped)
  5. His answer during the meeting was completely out of pocket. (Inappropriate behavior)
  6. Sophie is out of pocket on vacation and can’t be reached until next week. (Unavailable)

Origin and History

Originating in 1679, it initially meant being short of money, often due to a transaction. Former United States Attorney General John J. Crittenden’s use of “out of pocket” is the oldest recorded, though it’s probably the least familiar to modern Americans.

Most sources agree that the financial sense of “out of pocket” is the earliest. Since the late 1600s, it has described someone having to use their own money, figuratively pulling cash straight from their pockets to settle a bill.

The interpretation of “out of pocket” as being unavailable is more contemporary. This primarily American meaning dates back to a 1908 O. Henry story. It likely stems from the figurative idea of a person missing from their usual place or being lost, much like an item that has fallen out of a pocket.

The most recent evolution of “out of pocket” describes someone acting strangely or inappropriately. This sense seems to have emerged in the 1940s, possibly originating from African American vernacular English and linked to the game of pool. In pool, sinking balls into pockets is the goal, so a ball “out of pocket” is undesirable.

The “wild” or “inappropriate” meaning of “out of pocket” has gained popularity with younger generations, often appearing on social media.

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