View synonyms for cop-out


[ kop-out ]


, Informal.
  1. an act or instance of copping out; reneging; evasion:

    The governor's platform was a cop-out.

  2. a person who cops out:

    Everyone helped as they had promised, except for one cop-out.

cop out


  1. intr, adverb to fail to assume responsibility or to commit oneself


  1. an instance of avoiding responsibility or commitment
  2. a person who acts in this way

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Word History and Origins

Origin of cop-out1

First recorded in 1940–45; noun use of verb phrase cop out

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Word History and Origins

Origin of cop-out1

C20: probably from cop 1

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Idioms and Phrases

Back out of a responsibility or commitment; also, take the easy way out. For example, Don't count on him; he's been known to fake illness and cop out , or She'll cop out and let her assistant do all the work . These meanings are derived from the underworld slang use of cop out for backing down or surrendering. [Late 1950s]

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Example Sentences

The former president urged young people not to “cop out,” before ending on an uplifting call to “create a whole different future.”

Blaming Tucson on the vile language in public discourse is a cop out.

Cop Out was savaged by critics and just barely earned back its $30 million budget.

"I wanted to start somewhere and not have the cop-out that you know it when you see it," she says from her Portland, Oregon, home.

Carver argued back in a poem: “starving is more of a cop-out.”

Meanin' as you'll walk right in on Bud's tough bunch an' cop out d' Kid on y'r lonesome—eh?

Fritz has been over a good bit lately and we have to put out our lights as soon as it gets dark, else we'd cop out for sure.

Suddenly the burglar stopped and called to him softly: "Ain't there a cop out there in front somewhere sparking the girl?"

He knew he was plain pastry for the Sharks, so he would hang around the first Tee waiting to cop out a Pudding.

Brownlee excused himself and followed the cop out, leaving me to explain things to His Grace.


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More About Cop Out

What does cop-out mean?

Cop-out is a slang term for the act or an instance of backing out of a situation or commitment or avoiding responsibility for something.

When you take the easy way out to avoid doing something challenging or making a difficult choice, that’s a cop-out. An excuse can be called a cop-out.

The term is sometimes spelled without a hyphen (cop out) or as one word (copout).

The verb cop out (without a hyphen) means to back out or avoid something in this way, especially something you’ve committed to doing. Similar terms are flake and flake out. When used as a verb, cop out is usually followed by a preposition (typically on or of) and the thing being avoided or backed out of, as in You just knew he was going to cop out on us again with some lame excuse. 

Less commonly, cop-out can refer to a person who has copped out or who is known for copping out.

Both the noun and verb senses of the word are used negatively to criticize people who cop out.

Example: His response to the question is a total cop-out—he’s just afraid to answer it directly.

Where does cop-out come from?

The first records of the term cop-out come from the mid-1900s. The verb sense was used first. It’s uncertain where the term cop in the phrase originates, but it’s probably based on a verb sense of the word (which can mean “to steal” or “to nab”). It may be related to the phrase cop a plea, which means “to plead guilty or confess to a crime in exchange for a lighter sentence.”

A cop-out is an evasion—it can be an evasion of a question, a responsibility, a commitment, a task, or something you said you’d do. Calling something a cop-out or saying that someone copped out often implies a lack of respect for the person. That’s because cop-outs are often thought to be the result of the person not being brave or responsible enough to follow through and do what they should.

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What are some other forms of cop-out?

  • cop out (verb, no hyphen)
  • copped out (past tense verb)
  • cops out (present tense verb)
  • copping out (continuous tense verb)
  • cop-outs (plural noun)

What are some synonyms for cop-out?

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

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


How is cop-out used in real life?

Both the noun cop-out and the verb cop out are always used negatively. They both imply a criticism of the person who has copped out.



Try using cop-out!

Is cop-out used correctly in the following sentence?

I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I really did have something come up at the last minute.

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Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

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