or car·ry·out

[ kar-ee-out ]
/ ˈkær iˌaʊt /
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noun, adjective
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Origin of carry-out

1965–70, Americanism; adj. use of verb phrase carry out
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does carry-out mean?

Carry-out (or carryout) refers to food or drinks picked up from a restaurant or other place to be consumed elsewhere, typically at home. It can also refer to the place where you get it, though this is less common unless it’s used as an adjective, as in carry-out place or carry-out service.

In the U.S., this is also called takeout. In the U.K., it’s called takeaway. Other terms that are often used to describe such services are pick-up and to-go.

The term carry-out is based on the phrasal verb carry out, literally meaning to carry something out of a place, like you’d carry the pizza out of the pizzeria. (As a verb, carry out also has other meanings.)

Example: I don’t feel like cooking tonight—let’s just get carry-out from the taco place on the way home.

Where does carry-out come from?

Carry-out was first and is primarily used in the U.S. The first records of the word come from the 1930s. It’s origin is straightforward: when you get carryout, you carry it out of the place where you get it.

The term carry-out is sometimes contrasted with the terms eat-in and delivery, such as on a restaurant sign that says Eat-in / Carry-out / Delivery. Eat-in means there is seating available so that you can eat inside the restaurant, and it’s most often used for casual eateries. However, the term carry-out can be applied to all kinds of restaurants that allow you to come pick up the food and leave with it. Drive-through isn’t usually considered the same as carry-out since you don’t have to enter the building (and literally carry out the food).

In the U.S., the term takeout is probably more popular when it comes to food. However, bars that sell alcoholic beverages to-go (like six-packs of beer) very commonly call this service carry-out.

When carry-out refers to a place that offers such a service, it’s typically used as an adjective, as opposed to a noun. People are much more likely to say Let’s get something from the carry-out place, as opposed to Let’s get something from the carry-out.

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What are some other forms related to carry-out?

  • carryout (alternate spelling)

What are some synonyms for carry-out?

What are some words that share a root or word element with carry-out

What are some words that often get used in discussing carry-out?

How is carry-out used in real life?

Carry-out is most often associated with casual eateries where you can pick your meal and go eat it at home.



Try using carry-out!

Is carry-out used correctly in the following sentence?

Does the carry-out menu have everything that’s on the regular menu?

How to use carry-out in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for carry-out

carry out

verb (tr, adverb)
to perform or cause to be implementedI wish he could afford to carry out his plan
to bring to completion; accomplish
noun carry-out mainly Scot
alcohol bought at a pub or off-licence for consumption elsewhere
  1. hot cooked food bought at a shop or restaurant for consumption elsewhere
  2. a shop or restaurant that sells such foodwe'll get something from the Chinese carry-out
  3. (as modifier)a carry-out shop
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 carry-out

carry out


Accomplish, bring to a conclusion, as in They carried out the mission successfully. Shakespeare had this term in King Lear (5:1): “And hardly shall I carry out my side, Her husband being alive.” [Late 1500s]


Put in practice or effect, as in We will carry out the new policy, or Please carry out my instructions. [Mid-1800s]

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