What is the meaning of 'call out' in the following sentence?

[W]e must call out bad behavior, including that of the corrupt regime in Tehran.

from an article 'It's Official: North Korea is behind Wannacry' in WSJ. Unfortunately, the dictionary I use, The New Oxford American Dictionary, does not give the usage of 'call (something) out' as in the above way though it has a section for 'call (someone) out'. To me, 'call out' seems an idiom.

  • What about the several online dictionaries ? What did they tell you?
    – Centaurus
    Feb 16, 2018 at 21:01
  • 1
    Never limit yourself to just one dictionary—as Centaurus says, there are so many of them freely available on the Internet. Feb 16, 2018 at 22:17

2 Answers 2


The Free Dictionary provides this apt definition

  1. To confront one about one's misdeeds or unpleasant behavior. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is typically used between "call" and "out." If your intern keeps coming in late, you need to call her out on it.

So to publicize or draw attention to something, usually in negative sense.


The expression was not familiar to me, yet I thought it sounded logical. I struggled but eventually found it in OED (subscription required unless in UK).

b. orig. and chiefly U.S. To expose or identify (a person) as acting in a dishonest or otherwise unacceptable manner; to challenge or confront. Frequently with on. Cf. to call on —— 5 at Phrasal verbs 2.

The latest citation is :

2013 G. Albin Altered iv. 38 I dislike how he speaks to Greta. But there's no time to call him out on it.

And the earliest :

1981 Akwesasne Notes (N.Y.) Autumn 12/3 The military had..tried to cover up the incident. This..Military commander..had been responsible during the case of the Elder Lester Athars and so the people now were openly calling him out as an assassin, a murderer.

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