[ kop-out ]
/ ˈkɒpˌaʊt /
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noun Informal.
an act or instance of copping out; reneging; evasion: The governor's platform was a cop-out.
a person who cops out: Everyone helped as they had promised, except for one cop-out.
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Origin of cop-out

First recorded in 1940–45; noun use of verb phrase cop out
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


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.

How to use cop-out in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for cop-out

cop out
/ slang /

(intr, adverb) to fail to assume responsibility or to commit oneself
noun cop-out
an instance of avoiding responsibility or commitment
a person who acts in this way

Word Origin for cop out

C20: probably from cop 1
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 cop-out

cop out

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]

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