When I am ill and cannot go into the office to work I say "I called out sick". I now live in Texas and people like to correct me and say that it's "call in sick".This doesn't make sense to me. Is it a regional thing, like ya'll vs. you guys?

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    I've always heard "called in sick" (in Kentucky and Minnesota). You're calling "in" to the office.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 2, 2022 at 23:28
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    We usually say "call in" in Australia. Before the days of text messages it was literally a phone call to the place of business, so "call out" makes no sense to me (although I have occasionally heard it that way on American TV). Where did you live before Texas?
    – nnnnnn
    Dec 2, 2022 at 23:59
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    Where are you from? I would consider call in sick to be universal in American English. I've never heard call out sick. Maybe there are regional differences, like stand on line vs stand in line...? Dec 3, 2022 at 4:41
  • It's normal in British English too. Dec 3, 2022 at 8:31
  • To "Call out" compresses the calling with stating you'll be out sick: Lee called out in the morning. Dec 4, 2022 at 16:03

4 Answers 4


Apparently, both call in sick and call out sick are used and there is a regional difference in usage in U.S. English. Based on a poll where 7493 US adults surveyed, calling in sick is the most popular phrase in the United States and regionally most popular in the Midwest, while calling out sick is most popular in the Northeast, and possibly used in New York area also.

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Source: today.yougov.com

I believe call in sick is the phrase used in British, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian English also. Personally, I've never heard or used call out sick before, mainly in Canadian English and talking to people from the UK, the US, NZ in business settings.

OED provides both phrases and the earlier one is call in sick. Here are the definitions and the earliest citations from OED:

to call in

5. Originally U.S.

c. intransitive. With adjectival complement: to contact one's employer, school, etc., typically by telephone, to report one's absence that day, esp. due to illness; esp. in to call in sick.

1943 Washington Post 3 July b1 This being a holiday weekend, employees in Treasury's loans and currency section..were warned yesterday not to call in sick either today or Monday under any circumstances.

to call out

8. intransitive. Originally and chiefly U.S. To contact one's employer, school, etc., typically by telephone, to report one's absence; chiefly with complement, esp. in to call out sick.

1976 Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg-Leominster, Mass.) 16 Apr. 1/6 Bray said no one called out sick in the DPW at all this week..[due] to his demands that anyone out sick must have a doctor to certify illness.

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    Nice Statistics , +1 , I have this "Observation" : When considering the age , that has the ratio 61:15 for the group "55+" which gradually reduces to the ratio 35:29 for the group "18-24" , indicating the change in meaning , over the Decades !
    – Prem
    Dec 3, 2022 at 14:50
  • You cite: "his demands that anyone out sick" but not call out sick.
    – Lambie
    Nov 7, 2023 at 20:25
  • Those definitions say both are originally American English.
    – Lambie
    Feb 22 at 15:20

I'm 34 and from Massachusetts and calling "in" sick sounds very strange to me. You're calling out sick to say you will be out of the office that day. Calling in sick sounds like you're sick and "calling in" by phone or video call for a regular work from home day. I do understand that calling something in means to call and give a report about something though (calling work about your sickness or calling the city when a tree is blocking the road, for example)

  • You call in to say you will be out sick. But, I'm from where you are and call in sick is pretty standard.
    – Lambie
    Feb 22 at 16:47

If I am in the office, I'd say: John called in sick.

If I am in the office, I'd say: John called to say he was out sick.

I might call the office and say: I'm calling in sick.

**I would never say "call out" sick.

Summary: To call in sick To be out sick

Reference: logic


Word Web gives :

call in

Make a phone call

call out

Challenge to a duel

[[ these 2 are the meanings relevant to the Post ]]

Unless you want a confrontation , use "call in" to take time off.

If you want to fight with your Boss who is not letting you take time off , then use "call out" to start a verbal fight.

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