Understanding the Idiom: "put out" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The Origins of “put out”

Before diving into its modern usage, it’s important to understand where this idiom originated from. The phrase “put out” has been in use since at least the 16th century, with early references appearing in Shakespearean plays such as Hamlet. However, its exact origins are unclear.

The Multiple Meanings of “put out”

Today, “put out” can refer to extinguishing a fire or turning off a light. However, it also has several figurative meanings that can be confusing for non-native speakers. For example, someone might say they were “putting out feelers” when trying to gauge interest in a project or idea. Alternatively, if someone is feeling overwhelmed or stressed they may say they are “feeling put-out”.

To better understand these various uses of the idiom “put out”, we will examine each definition in detail along with examples to illustrate their meaning.

Definition Example Sentence
To extinguish something (e.g., fire) “Can you please put out your cigarette? It’s not allowed inside.”
To turn off something (e.g., light) “Don’t forget to put out all the lights before leaving.”
To make an effort towards achieving something “She’s putting out feelers to see if anyone is interested in investing.”
To be annoyed or inconvenienced by something “I was really put-out when they cancelled the event at the last minute.”

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “put out”

The idiom “put out” is a common expression used in English to convey various meanings such as extinguishing a fire, publishing a book or releasing an album. However, the origins and historical context of this phrase are not widely known.

The Origin of the Phrase

The exact origin of the phrase “put out” is unclear. Some scholars believe that it originated from Old English where it was used to describe putting something away or laying something down. Others suggest that it may have come from French where “mettre hors de” means to put out.

Regardless of its origin, the phrase has evolved over time and now has multiple meanings depending on its context.

Historical Context

In the past, “put out” was commonly used in reference to putting out fires. This usage can be traced back to medieval times when towns were often built close together with wooden structures that were highly flammable. In order to prevent widespread destruction during fires, people would work together to quickly put them out.

Over time, the phrase began to take on additional meanings related to publishing books and releasing albums. This likely arose due to similarities between these processes and putting out a fire – all involve bringing something into existence for others’ consumption.

Today, “putting something out” can refer to anything from turning off a light switch before leaving a room, ending a romantic relationship or even completing a task at work. The versatility of this idiom speaks volumes about how language evolves over time!

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “put out”

One common usage of “put out” is to describe someone who is annoyed or inconvenienced by something. For example, if someone says they are put out by a delay in their flight schedule, it means they are frustrated or irritated by the situation.

Another variation of this idiom is when it refers to extinguishing a fire or turning off a light source. When you put out a fire, you stop it from burning; when you put out a light, you turn it off.

In some cases, “putting something out” can mean making an effort to communicate information or make something known publicly. For instance, if an author puts their book out for publication, they release it for public consumption.

Additionally, “putting someone out” can refer to asking them to leave your home or property because they are causing trouble or being disruptive.

Lastly, there’s also the expression of putting oneself out which means going beyond one’s comfort zone and doing more than what was expected from them.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “put out”

To begin with, some synonyms of “put out” include extinguish, quench, douse, smother, and snuff out. These words are often used interchangeably with “put out” when referring to putting a fire or flame to an end. On the other hand, some antonyms of “put out” are ignite, kindle, light up, spark off and start. These words represent actions that have the opposite effect of putting something out.

However, the idiomatic use of “put out” has a broader meaning beyond just extinguishing flames. It can also mean causing inconvenience or discomfort to someone or being inconvenienced oneself. For example: “She was put out by his rude behavior,” or “I don’t want to put you out by asking for a ride.” In these cases, synonyms could be annoy or bother while antonyms could be accommodate or assist.

Cultural insights can also play an important role in understanding how this idiom is used in different regions and communities. For instance, in British English slang “to put someone’s lights out” means knocking them unconscious through physical violence whereas it does not carry such connotations in American English.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “put out”

In order to truly master the use of the idiom “put out,” it is important to practice using it in a variety of contexts. The following exercises will help you become more comfortable with this phrase and its various meanings.

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blank

For each sentence below, choose the correct meaning of “put out” and fill in the blank with an appropriate form of the idiom.

Example: I’m sorry, but we’ve already __________ all our candles. (meaning: used up)

Answer: put out

1. The fire department was called to __________ a raging fire at the factory. (meaning: extinguish)

2. My neighbor always seems to __________ his trash cans on the wrong day. (meaning: place outside for collection)

3. Don’t worry about dinner tonight – I’ll __________ something quick and easy. (meaning: prepare or make)

4. She was really __________ when she found out she didn’t get the job she applied for. (meaning: upset or annoyed)

5. The company had to __________ a statement regarding their recent financial troubles. (meaning: issue or release)

Exercise 2: Create Your Own Sentences

Using one of the meanings of “put out,” create your own sentence that demonstrates your understanding of how to use this idiom correctly.

Example: After a long day at work, I like to put out my feet and relax on the couch.






By practicing these exercises, you will become more confident in your ability to use “put out” appropriately in conversation and writing!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “put out”

When using idioms in a language that is not your native one, it can be easy to make mistakes. The idiom “put out” is no exception. While it may seem simple enough, there are some common errors that people make when trying to use this phrase correctly.

One of the most frequent mistakes is confusing “put out” with other phrasal verbs that have similar meanings. For example, “put off” means to postpone or delay something, while “put up with” means to tolerate or endure something unpleasant. It’s important to understand the specific meaning of each phrasal verb and use them appropriately.

Another mistake is using “put out” in the wrong tense or form. This idiom has several different forms depending on the context and tense of the sentence. For instance, you might say “I put out the fire last night,” but you would say “I will put out the candles after dinner.” It’s crucial to pay attention to these details so as not to confuse your listeners.

Lastly, some people make the mistake of assuming that “putting someone out” means doing them a favor when in fact it usually means inconveniencing them or causing trouble for them. So if you offer someone help by saying you’ll put them out, they might misunderstand your intentions!

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