I was watching a TV show in which they showed this two friends who were hiding in disguise to escape from bounty hunters. Then one friend upon realizing that the bounty hunters have recognized them says to the other "We have been made.".

I can understand the meaning of this phrase from the context but I would like to know more about its usage. Being a non-native speaker i find this phrase quite odd and elegant at the same time. Is this a common phrase used in that context? Is this considered proper English or a slang? Is it considered American English?

  • I heard this phrase most famously in Dylan's "Tombstone Blues": "The hysterical bride in the penny arcade / Screaming she moans, "I've just been made" / Then sends out for the doctor who pulls down the shade / Says, "My advice is to not let the boys in"." The meaning in this instance seems to be "I have been duped", definitely not "I have been recognized", though. Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 20:28
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    Within the song, I'd suggest the alternate meaning of "f**ked". As in "Did you make her?" Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 21:11
  • @WhatRoughBeast Er, yes. I meant "I've been f**ked and dumped", that's what I took the verse to mean. Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 22:48
  • I think the use in Dylan's song is in a different sense: to have sexual intercourse. That's a sense that's distinct from the one in the question.
    – szarka
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 5:07
  • Ambiguity in Dylan? Surely you're joking! :-) Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 12:14

2 Answers 2


This usage of "made" is considered slang, specifically as used by criminals, police, spies, etc., but I would say that it is very well known to native speakers. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that it is originally American, but I believe that it is now also used outside the US. This usage has been common in American movies and television shows for a long time, so perhaps it spread that way?

Here's what the OED says:

52. trans. ... f. Criminals' slang and Police slang (orig. U.S.). To recognize or identify (a person, etc.). Cf. make n.2 10.

The oldest example given is from 1906. The reference to "make n.2 10" is to a similar noun form, meaning an identification or profile.


Have been made ( slang expression):

To have your cover blown, that is, to have your real identify revealed. Applies to undercover police, secret agents, spies or moles.

  • we have been made = we have been found out. = we have been discovered = they know about us, etc...

  • "Get out of there, you've been made!"


  • 2
    The Urban Dictionary's not all bad. Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 21:35

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