## Slang dictionary

# coin flip

[**koin** flip]

#### What does *coin flip *mean?

We call heads.

When people have to decide between two things, they might do a *coin flip*. This involves assigning options to the sides of a coin, flicking it into the air, and then going with the option that lands face up.

The practice has inspired the metaphorical *coin flip*, associated with outcomes based on chance.

**Related words:**

- 50-50 chance
- coin toss
- heads or tails
- random chance
- jfafc

## Where does coin flip come from?

Though the practice of flipping a coin to decide a dispute or decide the winner of a game goes back as far as Roman times, the term *coin flip *belongs to 20th century, at least according to the written record at this point.

The popularization of the phrase *coin flip* was probably due to American football’s use of the *coin toss* to decide the starting positions since 1892. Early usage is mostly centered around sports and politics.

The term really picked up in popularity in the 1970s. Of course, the sports connotations stuck around, since professional games still literally flip coins to determine the first possession or even the winner in extreme cases of ties. But, *coin flip* really started migrating to politics and general decision-making around this time, too.

Contemporary Google searches for *coin flip* show a feature at the top of the search results that “flips” an animated coin that lands on heads or tails. Apparently, enough people were searching *coin flip* to settle an argument that Google figured it would just flip it for them.

I use a Google coin flip to make 90% of my decisions and I’m starting to wonder if maybe that’s where I’m going wrong…

— Hannah (@hannah37073) May 6, 2018

In November and December, 2017, Google lookups for *coin flip* hit an all-time high. First, in November, the Virginia House of Delegates was set to settle a tie in election votes by pulling names out of a jar. Many news articles related this arbitrary tie-breaker to a *coin flip.*

Then college football’s Cotton Bowl began with a hilarious anticlimactic *coin flip*—if we can even it call it that.

## Examples of coin flip

*The Carlisle Arrow*, 1910

*Foster Care, Problems and Issues*, 1976

## Who uses coin flip?

Outside of sports, people actually settle matters with a *coin flip*, especially when there’s some undesirable task no one wants to do or when it’s a choice between two tough options.

Nothing like losing the coin flip to unclog/clean up the overflow in the womens bathroom on your last day of work👌

— Josie (@josiewelker) July 25, 2017

Since the outcome of a *coin flip* is arbitrary, landing on heads 50% of the time and tails the other 50%, there is no way to predict what will happen.

I’m basically at the point in my life where it’s a coin flip with anything I eat if it’s going to give me upset stomach. 😖

— Riderly 🍬 @ HAKODATE Addison (@itzRiderly) May 10, 2018

That’s why *coin flip* is popularly associated with matters of chance—it’s a *coin flip* (i.e., it could go either way), and we say this about outcomes where we don’t actually flip a coin ….

## Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of coin flip like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of coin flip that will help our users expand their word mastery.