Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This still strikes me as odd, even after 12 years in the US. Being out of luck is a bad thing, but lucked out is a good thing, e.g. we 'lucked out' and were able to get two extra tickets for the show. Any idea why?

share|improve this question
There is also lucked in. –  Mehper C. Palavuzlar Jan 23 '11 at 9:38
Also lucked up, as poker players are saying now. It means catching lucky cards, usually late in a hand against a previously stronger hand. –  Robusto Jan 23 '11 at 11:38
Interesting that in British English the expression has the exact opposite meaning. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/luck_out –  Andrei Vajna II Jan 23 '11 at 13:17
@Mepher: Never heard it. It sounds nonsensical to me, as I'm sure most other Brits would also feel. –  Noldorin Jan 23 '11 at 21:16
Any unknown idiom sounds nonsensical; that is what makes it an idiom. –  Jay Jan 24 '11 at 15:10

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It means that you are replete with luck. Think of similar phrases like 'all decked out', e.g.

The house was all decked out with balloons and banners for the birthday party.


Spread the sheet out

Out in all these contexts means 'the fullest extent or amount'.

In fact it means the same in 'out of luck', meaning you have absolutely no luck (no luck to the fullest extent). It's just the phrase is understood differently.

share|improve this answer
Interestingly, I've known this phrase (lucked out), to be used in the negative quite often, probably mistakenly, with the meaning "ran out of luck". –  Orbling Jan 23 '11 at 11:46
@Orbling: Not mistakenly; it's a US/UK difference. It does mean "ran out of luck" in British English. –  ShreevatsaR Jan 26 '11 at 3:16
@ShreevatsaR: Ah good, thought I was going mad. Another one of those reversals of meaning that so help ensure clarity in communications between the countries. ;-) –  Orbling Jan 26 '11 at 12:57

out of luck - luck has run out; is gone, depleted

lucked out - escaped/got out of a potentially bad situation, or emerged/came out ahead, thanks only to luck

share|improve this answer
+1. This is how I interpret "lucked out" as well. But I think people use it as a set phrase without any analysis. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jan 24 '11 at 14:39

Perhaps the different interpretations either side of the Atlantic have something to do with him the mindset of the different populations. The UK, being naturally pessimistic, see themselves as out of luck. Whereas the USA (and Australia for that matter) being a younger, more positive, optimistic country feel they are smiled upon, blessed, deserving and have no doubt that Lady Luck is in their corner.

share|improve this answer
As an Australian and New Zealander, I have never heard people use the term lucked out to mean having good luck. If you lucked out you're right out of luck. –  CapnPants Jul 17 at 7:44

It's really American illiteracy. Like the phrase "I could care less" in US. Completely ignorant.

share|improve this answer
Hi GeorgeS, and welcome to ELU. As this site is not a forum but a Q&A site, "Answers" should not engage in further discussion. This is a comment, which you can make after you earn a bit of reputation. Please take the site tour and visit the help center for guidance on how to use this site. –  medica 2 hours ago
I thought someone might not like it, medica, but if you can't say it's an error, you may never get the answer. –  GeorgeS 2 hours ago
This answer is completely ignorant. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet 2 hours ago
@GeorgeS - it's not that I don't care for your answer (though in fact I don't), it's that this is not the kind of answer expected on Stack Exchange. YouTube, maybe; some forum, maybe. Here, Answers mean something. Yours is merely an opinion. See the site tour and the help center –  medica 1 hour ago

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.