I just saw this on internet and i know this is a slogan and how to use it too, but i dont know the whole meaning of this phrase.

  • 4
    You know how to use it but you don't know the meaning? Please provide some examples of how you would use it, as there is more than one meaning. Jul 12, 2015 at 7:43
  • 6
    If you don't know what something means, then you don't know how to use it. Knowing when and how to use an expression requires knowing what it means—they're two sides of the same story. An example: you seem not to quite understand what the word slogan means, and therefore you have used it here in a way that makes very little sense in English. Jul 12, 2015 at 14:34
  • I would use it like this: "Thanks for getting me off the hook. I didn't want to attend that meeting. I couldn't get myself off the hook no matter what I tried" Jul 12, 2015 at 15:47
  • 2
    What I mean is that I know some of the meaning but not all of them. Jul 12, 2015 at 15:48
  • If you're a fish and you get off the hook, you can probably get away and live to swim another day.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 20, 2017 at 12:59

5 Answers 5


"Off the hook" has a few different meanings.

As Caleb Bernard put in their answer it can mean getting out of a situation which is analogous to a fish being let off the fishing hook and let free to go.


The prosecutor dropped the charges against her so she is off the hook.

My dad is sick so I'm off the hook for babysitting my brother tonight.

Another meaning is excellent or great.


Did you see his dance moves? They are off the hook!

We have unlimited juice!? This party is going to be off the hook!!

Another meaning is out of control, wild, or crazy. The analogy here is the fish needs to be put on the hook to control it.


Elon Musk: Demand for Tesla Energy batteries is 'crazy off the hook'

She started screaming in the theater? You gotta dump her, she is really off the hook.

Another meaning relates to telephones. The original telephone design had a hook on it to hang the receiver when the phone was not in use. When a phone is "off the hook" it means it isn't available to be called. This is a literal meaning.

So you can say

Sorry I didn't get your call, I left my phone off the hook on accident.

But that leads to another idiom - when a phone "rings off the hook" that means it rings excessively.

I write a controversial article and now my phone is ringing off the hook.

  • +1 Urban Dictionary (for once) has some useful, nonscatalogical definitions that affirm the variety of meanings the phrase can have. The top three meanings: "Off the hook is actually a modernization of a series of slang words. Closely related to off the chain, there refering to something being so "fresh" and "new" that its literally right off the store shelf. (started in reference to clothes, the hangar being the hook)"; "cool; happening"; and "'get away with something', or 'not be responsible for something.'" Quite a range.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 20, 2017 at 22:22

Off the hook comes from fishing, where if a fish gets "off the hook" then it is free and will not end up as food. It's used metaphorically whenever you are in a bad situation, but get out of it.

  • 1
    "Off the hook" has a few other meanings as well.
    – Sam I Am
    Jul 12, 2015 at 7:01
  • @SamIAm This is true; in general whenever you hear "That party was off the ___!" it means that the party was excellent. Hook, chain, charts perhaps...
    – Caleb
    Jul 12, 2015 at 7:03
  • It can also mean out of control/wild/crazy/insane, such as "Elon Musk: Demand for Tesla Energy batteries is 'crazy off the hook' or "She started screaming in the theater? You gotta dump her, she is really off the hook."
    – Sam I Am
    Jul 12, 2015 at 7:17
  • @SamIAm Right again! You should put those two meanings in an answer if you want
    – Caleb
    Jul 12, 2015 at 7:36
  • I started writing an answer but I didn't think it was coming out right because I haven't read a whole lot of questions here so I was unsure of a good format. I have attempted one now though.
    – Sam I Am
    Jul 12, 2015 at 8:02

You could have done your homework before asking. You should modify your question to

What is the origin of the phrase off the hook ?

Your question in its current form is actually not acceptable within the etiquette of this forum, since answers for it are readily available in public sources.

Here, let me do your homework for you:


But, if you do decide to modify your question to finding the origin(s) of the phrase, there are a few possibilities I can think of.

  1. Someone was caught on the hook like a fish. And the fisher then decided to unhook you, that you somehow got yourself off the hook. You are free of your obligations after that.

  2. In earlier days of school or neighbourhood bullying, boys would be hung to the wall-mounted garment hooks by the collar notch of their shirts or jackets. So if you are off-the-hook, you would no longer be facing the threat of being bullied into performing an unpleasant task.

  3. Say, if you had a wall phone (which were very popular prior to 15 years ago). Ringing, ringing, ringing, .... incessantly ringing. Until if fell off the hook.

I wish to say, that origin #1 seems to be the accepted origin.

OTOH, off-the-hook due to origin#3 is used when events happen persistently that the situation becomes like the phone falling off the hook. For example

  • The stock market fluctuations are vacillating off the hook. Do not confuse with the stock market performing-off-the-charts.

  • Neighbours, police and lawyers have been knocking on the door off the hook, to get them to do something about their dog howling at 3 am every morning.


There are a number of things I would like to clarify: First off Orlan (original poster) a phrase like this that is commonly used (most often metaphorically) is considered an idiom. Idioms, much like slogans, gain there familiarity when they are used or referred to often. Unlike an idiom though a slogan in this day and age tends to be affiliated with catch phrases used by organizations in advertising. Originally though it (A Slogan) was a Scottish Clan's unique battle cry.

Secondly you did not come to the wrong place for your answer. Anyone can see from your opening remarks that you are familiar with the use of the phrase/idiom but you were looking for more - background if you will.

Which brings me to my third point - There are a number uses of the phrase. Each for differing situations. Until about 20-25 years ago the idiom "Off The Hook" referred to someone being released of their entanglement in a detrimental situation. Today more often than not it refers to something being ridiculously good. Whether it be a clothing sale, a song or a movie. In these cases I believe that the idiom refers to an old style land line supposedly ringing so often that it fell off the hook. Point of fact this didn't actually happen but rather was used as an hyperbolic metaphor to describe a very busy/frantic state.

And so now here is my final point. "The Hook" was a tool used to remove an actor from the stage when he or she was bombing. To slip away from said hook meant the actor was afforded more stage time. If the audience disagreed with the performer being hauled off then they would protest. Their protest would sometimes mean the performer would be let "Off The Hook" and was allowed to continue the performance. This is, I believe, the origin of this idiom when referring to someone being excused from consideration of guilt or involvement.


"Off the hook" can also refer to buying clothes .. Off the hook. That is to say buying something without it requiring tailoring after the purchase.

If you are just that right weight and height.. you can buy "Off the hook", wear it out of the shop and look good.

If not, you ask the shop to adjust it or you take it home to adjust or, have it adjusted by someone who cares enough to do it for you.

  • 3
    I think that's "off the rack."
    – deadrat
    Jul 12, 2015 at 10:22
  • I've only ever heard off the rack as well, but it wouldn't surprise me overmuch if it were off the hook in some places. Jul 12, 2015 at 14:37

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