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hall pass

What does hall pass mean?

A hall pass is a note or other object that gives a student permission to walk through the halls of a school unsupervised, usually for a specific purpose, like going to the bathroom or the nurse's office.

A hall pass is also an agreement between people in a romantic relationship that one or both of them may have sex with other people.

image of hall pass

image of hall pass

Where does hall pass come from?

In the context of school, from elementary school to high school, a hall pass is a written note or a physical object that gives a student permission to be outside the classroom. As a metaphorical extension, a hall pass can be used beyond the context of school to describe a situation where something that would not normally be permitted is allowed. For example, an actor might get a hall pass for a terrible performance in a movie because they are so charming in real life.

Similarly, a hall pass is used to give members of a couple permission to have sex outside of their relationship.

Hall passes may be a regular thing for a couple, or it may be a new development in their relationship. Sex therapist Dr. Pepper Schwartz argues in the AARP magazine that sex permitted by a hall pass can still lead to emotional attachment, which may violate the spirit of the arrangement. And so, she encourages couples to participate in open communication and hard thought before granting hall passes. However, many couples also claim that hall passes bring them closer together and allow them to fulfill needs that their partner will not or cannot.

In addition to the above meanings, Hall Pass might also refer to a 2011 American rom-com produced and directed by the Farrelly brothers, starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis. It received mixed to negative reviews.

A few things to note…

Hall passes, in the sexual sense, are most commonly used by married or dating couples who have been together for a while and are otherwise monogamous. Hall pass is recognized by people in various classes and cultural groups.

For example…

“Reality TV star Toya Wright appeared on Bravo's Untying the Knot and admitted she gave her husband, Mickey 'Memphitz' Wright, an 'eight-day hall pass' from their marriage to have outside sexual encounters.”

Britni Danielle, “Real Couples Pull Back The Covers On Their Open Marriages,” Essence (March 1, 2016)

“I know how much my girl loves sex so I gave her a nonexpiring hall pass. She’s used it a few times and I’m happy she has because we’ve never been closer.”

Whisper (anonymous) Distractify (January 6, 2016)

“I did some looking around ... I think this may be a generational thing ... I'm a bit older and what we meant by ‘hall pass’ was, that the girl gave you the OK to go out with the guys. It really didn't mean she was giving me an OK to go out and pick up chicks … That being said, I can't think of how many times I've been out without my gf and said to a guy or girl, yeah she gave me a hall pass tonight.”

ayb Reddit (2013)

This is not a formal definition of hall pass like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of hall pass that will help you expand your word mastery.