Is it common in English to use the following idiom: "He flees from responsibility"?

Or is there some more common form of saying this?

  • I'd post this an an answer but from the existing answers, other people have interpreted this question differently than I did initially, so I'll just leave it here. If you like it, it can be converted to an answer later. To abscond: leave hurriedly and secretly, typically to avoid detection of or arrest for an unlawful action such as theft. – Dan Bron Jan 6 '16 at 15:06
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    "cut and run" is a present idiom. – Ben Jan 6 '16 at 15:55
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    @Mert Nuhoglu People usually "flee a responsibility", not "from a responsibility." "shun a responsibility" is another possibility. – Elian Jan 6 '16 at 23:07
  • Can you elaborate on what is meant by your phrase? In the answers and comments I see a few interpretations that seem equally valid. Does this person fail at their responsibilities, avoid even getting any responsibilities in the first place, or something else? – DCShannon Jan 7 '16 at 2:47

"He flees from responsibility" is correct but not common.

A more customary word is shirk.


Avoid or neglect (a duty or responsibility).


Their sole motive is to shirk responsibility and rip off the company.

(Oxford Dictionaries Online)

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    I think there's a nuance that's not being addressed here. To me, "flee from responsibility" has a sense of inability, maybe even cowardice, associated with it, something that "shirk responsibility" does not. Maybe it's just me who has this sense. – jyc23 Jan 6 '16 at 15:34
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    @jyc23 I think there's also a distinction, but I see a different one. To me, someone who "shirks" responsibility is one who possesses a responsibility and does not fulfill it. Someone who "flees" from responsibility is trying to avoid being put in a place where they'd have any responsibilities in the first place. It really depends what the question-asker actually meant! – recognizer Jan 6 '16 at 21:49
  • No, I think your distinction is the one I had in mind; I was unable to express it / see it as well as you did. Thank you. It seems that someone who flees from responsibility also shirks that responsibility, but not necessarily the other way around. One might shirk responsibility, but not flee from it, as one might do if there was never an intent to fulfill it. – jyc23 Jan 15 '16 at 1:32

Slack also slack off

To make less effort than usual, or to be lazy in your work. Longman

To be careless or remiss in doing. E.g. Slack one's duty. The Free Dictionary

To avoid work. Merriam Webster

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An informal phrase much in use in places I have worked in the past is he has slopy shoulders, the metaphor involved being the shouldering of responsibility. Since his shoulders are slopy, he cannot or does not do this.

I can't find a reference to confirm this, sadly.

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I think another good one would be irresponsible as in,

"His refusal to work shows him to be completely irresponsible".

It may still lack the nuance of fleeing responsibility though, as fleeing implies some level of fear. Irresponsible I believe, implies a lack of responsibility, or lack of caring for consequence.

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  • Irresponsible is quite suitable for the question. A good alternative would be avoiding responsibility, as strange or contradictory that might sound/be. – Sakatox Mar 8 '16 at 14:41

As others have noted, it seems that shirk fits the question best. It is good to have the range of other answers, however, to cover shades of meaning.

In addition to "cut and run" (abandon a responsibility already assigned to one) or "shun a responsibility" (flee from a responsibility given or refuse to take on even the assignment of a responsibility), I also see the phrase "duck a responsibility" as relevant here - employing the metaphor of physical avoidance as if the person is trying to avoid being "hit" by the responsibility or is trying to avoid being "found" by the responsibility.

It's interesting to me that there is this nuance of interest involving the extent to which a person tries to avoid having a responsibility put on them in the first place, versus a person avoiding a responsibility they know they already have. Thanks for the question.

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