What does English idiom "look out" (or "watch out") come from? When you want to warn somebody.

Usually, in case of a danger, it is better to hide rather than move your head out to see.

(I know it is an idiom, but maybe there is some reason in it)

  • But you don't know there is danger unless you look out for it. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 8:35
  • Voictus, welcome and -1! I don't think "watch out" carries the sense of immediateness, so in the very moment one hears "watch out" they don't have to hide, but, rather, have the need of being aware and on guard for something or someone.
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 9:17
  • Hi Carlo, we meet again :) but why -1? This is mainly etymology question, so my thinking might be wrong, but how could I improve it?
    – Voitcus
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 9:41
  • Voitcus, no research efforts. If there is a specific idiom or expression you want expert help to understand, please edit to show prior research and rephrase the question. Thank you.
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 10:11
  • 1
    This is an idiom, but it's a standard idiom. All phrasal verbs are idiomatic, after all. And the difference between look out and watch out is the same as the difference between look and watch, so there's no real etymology here. And a good thing, because etymology isn't normally done on phrasal verbs. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 15:39

1 Answer 1


Look out

Definition To be watchful or careful; take care, be vigilant, be on the lookout or be careful; "Watch out for pickpockets!"

Look out origin 1690–1700; noun use of verb phrase look out

Etymology: Lookout (n) also look-out, "person who stands watch or acts as a scout," 1690s, from look + out.

Verbal phrase look out "be on the watch" attested from c.1600.

It appears that the phrasal verb expression look out originates from the noun lookout (one word) which meant ....

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Source Century Dictionary: http://www.global-language.com/CENTURY/

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