I've noticed that some business people (generally management types) have started to use the expression "cover off" to mean "cover".


Can you cover off agenda item 3 for me?


Not only will Scott cover off some of the new stuff...

See: https://sites.google.com/a/codecampsa.com/home/speakers/scott-barnes

Where has this come from?

  • I think you are mistaken about it meaning "to cover." I take it to mean "reveal" or "unveil" in both cases. I do not find it anything but ungainly and do not condone its usage. So don't. Take that as a warning! – horatio Nov 1 '11 at 19:32
  • 4
    Cover also has a meaning of "take care of", which might be at the root of this (abhorrent) phrase. – Marthaª Dec 13 '11 at 16:53
  • In my experience cover off is being used to mean meet the needs of and is mainly used by techies or people in a project environment. I also find this terminology has just emerged. – user17581 Jan 30 '12 at 14:43
  • I noticed this for the first time in late 2010/early 2011. I thought the business-person who said it just mis-spoke. Now I hear it all the time. People say it for "cover" or "address". You might even hear "cover off on": "We just have a few more items to cover off on." – user20035 Apr 12 '12 at 20:39
  • It means "cover". The commercial manager for the company I work at just used it in an e-mail: "need to expand response to cover off equipment". – user20963 May 8 '12 at 5:48

I heard this for the first time yesterday at a management briefing on the east side of the Atlantic. It seems cover isn't dynamic enough on its own.

Google seems to indicate it's only a year or two old.

I agree with @Daniel that the Microsoft example is probably using 'cover off' to mean unveil (as in 'take the cover off') because the context is reserving 'cover off' for the new stuff. But this would certainly be a novel use of 'Cover Off' in BrE at least.

My guess is that techies started using 'Cover Off' as a shorthand for 'take the cover off' in some technical contexts and then as a metaphor for unveil. Management types misheard this as a novel and thrusting way of saying 'cover' and ran with it.

It's particularly prevalent in MSDN blogs in both senses. Googling "Cover Off" with Sharepoint yields what looks to me like a significant no. of hits in the 'cover' sense. I am tempted to call it microspeak/sharpoint.


Actually, I have only seen cover off meaning uncover. It looks like you composed the first example sentence with the impression that cover off meant cover. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

That second example sentence, which you did not make up, has cover off meaning uncover or unveil.

Silverlight & Expression 3 launch is an important moment in Microsoft's timeline, as this is our V3 moment! ... Not only will Scott cover off some of the new stuff, but will highlight some of the existing brilliance within these products through examples and commentary of how the old and new features came to be (as well as hints to both product's [sic] future).

Cover off here means uncover, and I surmise that it is a short form of get the cover off of.

  • I did intend the meaning to be "cover" rather than "uncover". I'd also interpreted the linked site to be using the same usage rather than "uncover", but I could be wrong. Either way, "cover off" to mean "uncover" is clearly wrong too. – user11150 Jul 20 '11 at 13:20
  • On what basis would you say it is wrong? It means what it means. – Daniel Jul 20 '11 at 13:26

I've never heard this usage before, but I'm prepared to theorise about how it might have arisen, at least in the first example:

Can you cover off agenda item 3 for me?

could have been said in the sense of

"can you cover for me off (meaning from) agenda item 3 ..."

Where cover is used in a more familiar sense of performing someone's job for them,

So it amounts to "Can you do item 3 for me?"

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