From Threat Vector, by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney:

He decided he would let off a little of the pressure Miss Melanie Kraft built up in him before heading back home to Chantilly to his bitchy wife and his checked-out teenagers.

While my initial thought was that to check out was being used to suggest that the teenagers had perhaps left home (vacated), I don't think that this really makes much sense in the above context.

So, what does checked-out teenagers mean?

  • The term most likely comes from the common verb "check out" in the hotel/motel industry, which refers to the action by a guest or customer of quitting the room he or she has been occupying at the end of a stay and returning the room key to the front desk clerk. "Checked-out" as an adjective means "officially no longer staying at the hotel/motel," but in a somewhat odd twist it can also mean "vacant" (like a room whose occupant has departed).
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 4, 2017 at 21:15

4 Answers 4


It doesn't mean dead [as another user's answer, now deleted, suggests], except metaphorically. It means uninvolved, uninterested, tuned out, unresponsive.

  • It means all those things only metaphorically too.
    – Lucas
    Jan 20, 2013 at 21:04
  • Thank you. Does it mean all these things only in the provided context? Or is this usage common in the US? Jan 21, 2013 at 4:48
  • These meanings are common in the U.S. To "check out" means to officially take leave of something, and by extension it means to express anomie among certain groups of people.
    – Robusto
    Jan 21, 2013 at 4:52

Given the context of the rest of the sentence (clue: "bitchy wife"), I would interpret "checked-out teenagers" to mean that his kids are disengaged from any meaningful family interaction and he is using that general assessment of his family life to justify his current course of action.


Urban dictionary records usage of checked out as:

"someone who doesn't care about their job anymore and is about to quit."

The children are most likely a care-free, non-committal teenagers who are not to be relied on for anything much.


The children's presence or absence is of no consequence to the family and as such figuratively they have checked out of his life

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