I used quick, let's scarper before the boss comes back to inject some levity into a recent meeting, but got only blank stares for my trouble. When asked to explain scarper to my American chums, all I could think of was you know, as in "scarper lads, it's the filth", i.e. run away quickly before the police catch you, but run away quickly really doesn't convey the essence of this truly useful word. Is there a good American English equivalent?

Note: it is difficult to convey the exact context. Imagine high school kids (not the good ones) deciding to try and evade the deans, or maybe a bunch of dropouts or low-level criminals about to get caught breaking in.

  • 11
    @Orbling: As an American, I haven't heard that word before in my life (that I can remember).
    – Kosmonaut
    Jan 23, 2011 at 16:38
  • 1
    I had never heard of this word either. Interestingly, Merriam-Webster define it without any "chiefly British" tag, but it appears not at all in either COCA or COHA.
    – nohat
    Jan 23, 2011 at 17:23
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    @Kosmonaut @nohat @dave: All the etymology points at it being of London origin, either via Italian influence or Cockney rhyming slang with "Scapa flow". Probably why, as a Londoner, it is totally normal to me. It is particularly used in reference to getting away from the police, hence @ukayer's example 'scarper lads, it's the filth' (filth being a slang term for the police).
    – Orbling
    Jan 23, 2011 at 18:53
  • 3
    I find it amusing that your usage example, 'scarper lads, it's the filth', contains only 2 words commonly used in AmEng. Lads is will understood, of course, but not used, while I've never heard of scarper at all or filth as a term for the police.
    – Dusty
    Jan 26, 2011 at 17:10
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    Of all the suggestions, "bail" and "split" seem the most appropriate for the context. All the other ones seem hopelessly dated or totally out of character.
    – horatio
    Feb 15, 2011 at 15:26

22 Answers 22


Depending on the age and ethnicity of your co-workers, "bounce" may work quite well in this context.

The urban dictionary's most popular definition (warning: potentially offensive link) lists "bounce" as:

v. to exit a location/situation.

I think it has a similar connotation to "scarper" to some groups in the US, although not all groups use this term.

  • +1 In late 90s California, we would say "Popo, let's bounce". Never "scram". Jun 25, 2013 at 15:47

'Scram!' or the old Bugs Bunny, Pig Latin version, 'Am-scray!'

  • @Elendi - scram also seems too twee. Imagine a bunch of drunken louts coming out of a pub at 11PM, they might use scarper but I doubt they would use scram.
    – ukayer
    Jan 23, 2011 at 17:26
  • Both “scram” and “vamoose” seeme pretty apt to me (orig. UK, now lived for 6 years in US/Canada). Yes, in some contexts and tones of voice they can be a bit camp — but so can “scarper”! I can certainly imagine an old codger shaking his fist at the kids playing on his lawn and shouting “Oy! Scram!” in complete seriousness.
    – PLL
    Jan 23, 2011 at 18:14
  • @ukayer I think scram would work in the context you presented. Quick, let's scram before the boss comes back.
    – ghoppe
    Jan 26, 2011 at 17:13
  • @ghoppe yes it works, but in British English there is definitely a difference between scarper and scram
    – ukayer
    Jan 28, 2011 at 5:44
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    @ukayer, I don't think scram has any twee connotation in American English. It's certainly the first word that came to my mind for substituting into "Quick, let's ___ before the boss comes back."
    – Marthaª
    Feb 13, 2011 at 19:02

I think book comes closest, both in meaning and degree of colloquialness, as in: "Look, John's coming in. I owe him money, so I gotta book. See you later."

  • @Robusto: How widespread is that term, I've heard it a number of times, but do not know if it is specific to a region?
    – Orbling
    Jan 23, 2011 at 11:43
  • @Orbling: It's of relatively recent coinage. I hear it among young(ish) people in the U.S. all the time.
    – Robusto
    Jan 23, 2011 at 13:47
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    @Orbling: It's pretty common, especially in the phrase "book it", which has a sense rather like "to hurry on foot", as in "I gotta book it to class" or "I saw some dude just booking it down the road earlier". The sense of "get out of here" isn't quite as common, but I think "I gotta book" would be understood as short for "I gotta book it outta here".
    – Jon Purdy
    Jan 23, 2011 at 15:45
  • @Robusto: +1 for a promising answer
    – ukayer
    Jan 23, 2011 at 17:28
  • This seems interesting! Looking around, I get the impression that among people who use this phrase, it might be a pretty good equivalent; but it’s not clear to me either how widely it’s used/understood (I don’t remember having come across it in 5 years in Pittsburgh).
    – PLL
    Jan 23, 2011 at 18:17

Perhaps absquatulate is the word you are looking for, although that might be getting on a bit now. You might also try skedaddle, which appears to be aging rather better.

  • +1 for the word absquatulate, but I would have got at least as many blank stares. Skedaddle seems too twee.
    – ukayer
    Jan 23, 2011 at 8:18
  • 2
    Absquatulate? Really?
    – rxmnnxfpvg
    Jan 23, 2011 at 9:14
  • @Jasie, yes, really. See here... dictionary.reference.com/browse/Absquatulate Jan 23, 2011 at 9:19
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    i dnno about absquatulate... to me it's a facetious made-up-word to sound like fake-latin. it's kind of being overly mellifluous for no reason. compare: 'scarper, it's the filth!' intending a sense of hurrying and such, to 'by golly lads, it's the police! let us absquatulate before they chance upon us!'
    – Claudiu
    Feb 15, 2011 at 15:23

I hear "split" a lot but it's more correct to use when you are parting company. It wouldn't be as common when the entire group is leaving to move elsewhere (as a group).

Let's split before the cops find us.

I also hear "jet" particularly when time is pressing.

I hate to interrupt, but I gotta jet...
We gotta jet if we want to make the 10:15 show...

  • +1 for “split”. Worth showing that it can also be used for one person leaving a group, not just the whole group all parting ways: “Hey guys, it’s been fun but I gotta split…”
    – PLL
    Feb 14, 2011 at 3:12
  • "Split" is fine if you're departing for 1967. I don't think it's been used non-ironically since "21 Jump Street" was canceled. Feb 16, 2011 at 1:53

I don't know how American it is, but "vamoose" has a few hits in COCA.

  • vamoose seems a bit 'twee' by comparison, though maybe just because it rhymes with caboose:-)
    – ukayer
    Jan 23, 2011 at 8:09
  • 4
    I don't think of "vamoose" as being twee, though I do not hear it often. I've always assumed (but never checked) that it is a conscious mis-pronunciation of "vamos" from Spanish.
    – Tom Hughes
    Feb 13, 2011 at 22:45

Scamper? Flee? ... Could be synonyms to "Scarper" in general...

  • Scamper is a pretty obvious replacement for scarper -- I'd be surprised if they don't share a derivation. Feb 16, 2011 at 19:55

Pretty sure the American for scarper is skedaddle. Amscray, the Pig Latin for scram, is also particularly idiomatically appropriate to your particular case.

  • 1
    Both of those, though accurate, are out of date.
    – Mitch
    Jan 4, 2012 at 14:12

Let's beat it, just beat it...


Several options:

Let's get out of here before the boss comes back

Simple, easy to understand, and if you want to make it more informal, you can just add an intensifier such as "the hell" or some other flavor of the same.

Let's dodge before the boss comes back


Let's get the .... out of Dodge before the boss comes back


I can't believe no one's tossed "run" or "run for it" out yet. That's the word we used in my high school, not even a full year ago, when we joked about all running out of the classroom when the teacher stepped out for a minute, which I think is something like what you're talking talking about. :)

"Quick! (Let's )run for it before she gets back!" or just "Quick! Run! Before she gets back!" is what I'd say.

.....Although I have to admit "Lock the door!" was more common. ;)


Cheese it! The police!


I saw them coming up the street so I broke.

  • 1
    "Cheese it!" reminds me of Futurama and the wonderful Bender.
    – Orbling
    Jan 23, 2011 at 18:47

I don't know how popular these are, but they are all American words meaning exactly what you're talking about (if they're not known it's probably because they're mostly used by high school kids running from the cops).

Dip (ie: Let's dip from the cops! They dipped out from the corner store.), Bounce (same thing), and Roll (more casual)

  • Out of those options, I think bounce comes closest. Though I've not encountered dip.
    – Orbling
    Feb 15, 2011 at 10:03

Maybe it's regional and obscure, but in that context I might use fly.

Quick, let's fly before the boss comes back.

Dang, I'm late. Gotta fly.

  • I like fly better than scram. Book from another answer also sounds promising
    – ukayer
    Jan 28, 2011 at 5:45

I would have thought "scarper" was a reasonably well known word.

Apparently the original meaning derives from cockney rhyming slang: To "Scarpa flow" meaning to "go".

How about some of these:

"Leg it" "Make yourself scarce" "Vamoose" "Get out of here" "Blow this joint"

Or if your audience has seen Snatch (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0208092/) you might like to say:

"Avi, pull your socks up!"

  • 1
    "Leg it" might work
    – ukayer
    Feb 13, 2011 at 9:11
  • Apparently only well known to Brits.
    – Orbling
    Feb 15, 2011 at 10:04

Although personally a fan of "skedaddle," another common phrase for this is "bug out."


We'd use "jet", "ditch", "run", or "bounce" really depending on the day. In the context of a boss, I'd probably go with "jet" or "ditch".

"Let's ditch the meeting before the boss shows up..."


Beat it and scram are my top picks from the answers above. Here are my two cents:

Make a run for it

Let's blow before the cops get here. (as in blow like the wind)

Make like the wind

Let's get outta here.

Skip town before the cops get here.

Let's hustle before they find us. (very 70s)


Personally, I've never heard "scarper". However, in (especially) American English, "scamper" is quite common, and would be the word I would use.

What is the origin of "scarper"?

  • Please see the old comments to this question at the top, I explained the etymology there some time ago.
    – Orbling
    Feb 15, 2011 at 10:02
  • 2
    Scamper sounds completely different to me. It's the way an excited puppy runs around a room. It holds no connotations of moving fast to a different location. Scarper has an additional connotation of a group splitting up, running off in different directions, to get away from authority. It's the sort of thing a bunch of kids might do when caught scrumping.
    – TRiG
    Aug 5, 2011 at 22:25

Show your American Chums Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban and ask them to check out Ron Weasley's rat Scarpers's behavior (running away). That would better aid them better to understand what Scarper means.

  • 3
    Unfortunately, the rat's name is Scabbers.
    – Hellion
    Feb 15, 2011 at 14:50
  • oh... lolz... I always interpreted it to be scrapers 'cause of the above reason... :P
    – ikartik90
    Feb 15, 2011 at 16:36


Let's dipset, it's the fuzz!


I remember this from old British mysteries, I think either Dorothy L. Sayers or the Albert Campion books. Scarper is linked to gypsy talk (Romany). The gypsies said "scarpa." I would argue against "scamper" as the US equivalent. Squirrels scamper. Thugs scarper.

  • 1
    This derivation is not correct. It's Cockney rhyming slang after Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. It's possible that novels or (more likely) early films of those novels misattributed it. cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk/slang/scapa_flow
    – Andrew Leach
    May 15, 2012 at 6:36

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