Billy Joel, in the song She's Always a Woman, writes,

Oh, and she never gives out, and she never gives in. She just changes her mind.

I understand that by "give in" he means "cease fighting or arguing; admit defeat." What does he mean by "she never gives out"? The only meaning of this phrase that I am familiar with is "be completely used up," but that doesn't seem to make sense here.

4 Answers 4


Well, I think taking "never gives out" to mean "never breaks down/never ceases to function/always keeps going" makes the most sense here.

  • 4
    Yes, in American usage, "give out" almost always means something stops working due to exhaustion or abuse. For instance, one might say, "He never added any oil to his car, and one day the engine just gave out." In the Billy Joel song, "she never gives out" could mean that during an disagreement, she never just agrees because she's tired of arguing.
    – Bob Murphy
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 8:56
  • "Gives out" in this usage is about things, not people.
    – rbp
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 19:29
  • Sometimes wordplay in a lyric is more handy than informational, working for sound more than anything else: Ooh, Baby. Ooh, Baby, Baby, Baby. Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 15:02

I am not exactly sure if this is a valid explanation (as it is referenced from Wiktionary) but it does fit in well with the Meaning of the song.

To Give Out : (Ireland, idiomatic) To complain, sulk, chastise.

Based on the above, the line -

She never gives out - She never gives in - She just changes her mind

seems to all fit in with this meaning.

  • 1
    Yeah, definitely something I've heard in Ireland.
    – Benjol
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 8:19
  • 2
    Though, given that Billy Joel is not Irish, I suspect what he meant might be what @JimiOke suggests in his answer...
    – Benjol
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 9:12
  • 1
    @Benjol - I agree!! I must say that i didnt quite get it based on Jimi's explanation but after reading Bob's comment, i do think that it makes sense!!
    – Jagmag
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 9:19
  • 1
    Definitely a valid reference, and the first thing I thought of, actually. But I do think that Jimi Oke nailed it.
    – bikeboy389
    Commented Dec 13, 2010 at 15:04

I'm Irish.

There are two contexts for this phrase giving out.

Give out to someone

To give out to a person means to speak angrily. For example, when the meal arrived it was cold so she gave out to the waitress. She was giving out to her husband because he always came home late from the pub.

Give out about something

In the Billy Joel song it means she never complains. If you are annoyed by something you might give out (complain) about it. For example, Pat was a complainer, he was always giving out about his mother and his job. Stop giving out about your job and do something about it.

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    Billy Joel wasn't speaking Irish English in his song.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 13:29

Give out : vt to give something to several people