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Idioms about off

Origin of off

Originally a stressed variant of of1

usage note for off

The phrasal preposition off of is old in English, going back to the 16th century. Although usage guides reject it as redundant, recommending off without of, the phrase is widespread in speech, including that of the educated: Let's watch as the presidential candidates come off of the rostrum and down into the audience. Off of is rare in edited writing except to give the flavor of speech.

Other definitions for off (2 of 3)


a suffixal use of the adverb off, forming nouns that denote competitions, especially between the finalists of earlier competitions or as a means of deciding a tie: cookoff; playoff; runoff.

Other definitions for off (3 of 3)


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does -off mean?

The suffixoff is used to denote a competition, specifically a final match between two contestants. It is occasionally used in informal terms, especially in sports. In many instances, –off is separated with a hyphen, as in face-off.

The form –off comes from the Middle English of, a preposition with a variety of meanings.

Examples of -off

One example of a word that features the form –off to denote a competition is runoff, “a final contest held to determine a victor after earlier contests have eliminated the weaker contestants.”

In this expression, run refers literally to moving quickly, as in a foot race. As we have seen, –off denotes a competition, particularly a final match between two contestants. Runoff literally means “a final competitive race.”

What are some words that use the combining form –off?

What are some other forms that –off may be commonly confused with?

Many words that end with the exact letters –off, such as putoff or spin-off, are not necessarily using the combining forming –off to denote “competition.” Learn why spin-off means “adaptation” at our entry for the word.

Break it down!

Given the meaning of –off, what is a flyoff?

How to use off in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for off

Word Origin for off

originally variant of of; fully distinguished from it in the 17th century

usage for off

In standard English, off is not followed by of: he stepped off (not off of) the platform
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Other Idioms and Phrases with off


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.