The phrase to "do one" — essentially an insult meaning to "do a disappearing act" (if the Urban Dictionary's definitions* are anything to go by) — seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon. Where did it come from? Is there any particular usage of it (such as by a celebrity or on a TV show) that led to it gaining traction?

*warning: some of the definitions contain expletives

  • 4
    Urban Dictionary is an interesting window into the way a few young Americans talk, but not to be relied on as a guide to English usage. – TimLymington Apr 3 '13 at 14:51
  • 3
    @TimLymington True - but there are plenty of other examples of this phrase being used. I asked the question because I was about to use it myself, and started wondering where it came from. It's definitely colloquial/slangy in nature, not for general use as you rightly say. – Waggers Apr 3 '13 at 14:56
  • possible duplicate of What did "your mom did a number on you" mean in Seinfeld?. I was pretty boggled when I tried to do a Google search for do a number using Google Chrome (apparently the search engine though I was going to search for do a barrel roll). Those guys are weird. – FumbleFingers Apr 3 '13 at 17:30
  • @FumbleFingers Searching for "do one" didn't get me very far either! – Waggers Apr 4 '13 at 10:31
  • It's from the Manchester scene back in the late 80's. "on one"(related to the drug ecstacy), "in one"(in a mood), "do one"(go away)..... you can even hear Shaun Ryder (Manchester band Happy Mondays)sing this on the song "Do it better" from 1988. – user148228 Nov 19 '15 at 20:22

The OED says it's chiefly and originally Liverpool and Lancashire slang and compares it to do a bunk and do a runner. Their earliest citation is the Liverpool soap opera Brookside from 1990:

Look just do one, will y' Sinbad!


It's obviously "do a runner" shortened, and it's particularly prevalent in the Armed Forces. It doesn't only mean "sod off" - it also means "run!"

protected by Community Dec 20 '18 at 3:24

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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