Fly the coop

Fly the coop is an idiom that originated in America. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom fly the coop, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Fly the coop means to leave, to depart, or to escape. Someone who escapes a boring lecture may be said to fly the coop. A child leaving home for college may be said to fly the coop. A person who escapes a terrible job may be said to fly the coop. The expression fly the coop is based on the image of a chicken flying out of its pen; however, coop was a slang term for jail in the 1800s. The first uses of the term fly the coop appear around the turn of the twentieth century and are used in reference to someone escaping from jail. Related phrases are flies the coop, flew the coop, has flown the coop, flying the coop.


The story centers on Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson), a teenager who is ready to fly the coop. (LA Weekly)

Notably, Aspen City Councilmember Skippy Mesirow made a social media point recently of having booked a trip to Bolivia in the wake of his recent COVID vaccination, stating “… After 1+ years of COVID lockup, I am ready to fly the coop …” (Aspen Daily News)

Totus Capital portfolio manager Sam Granger has flown the coop and secured funds management industry doyen Chris Cuffe’s support for his new venture. (Financial Review)

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