Off the hook

Off the hook is an idiom with two, distinct meanings. We will examine both definitions of the idiom off the hook, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

The first and oldest meaning of the phrase off the hook is to be relieved of some responsibility, to extricate yourself from some difficulty, to be allowed to wash your hands of a circumstance. This figurative meaning of the phrase off the hook has been in use since the mid-1800s and is based upon the imagery of a worm on a fishing hook. If a worm can get himself off the hook, he is saved from being eaten.

A newer meaning of the idiom off the hook comes from American rap music and culture. In this case, off the hook is used to describe something that is exciting, out of control, cool, or something that executed extremely well. This definition of off the hook is often used when describing a performance or a party.

Examples

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the company is off the hook. (The Pacific STandard Magazine)

Hartford is off the hook in terms of paying back money the city borrowed for infrastructure projects and other reasons because of a deal struck two years ago where the state agreed to pay off the city’s $550 million in general obligation debt. (The Hartford Courant)

In the lodge, there was off-the-hook-good ramen and taiyaki fish waffles stuffed with red bean paste, matcha crème and custard. (The Salt Lake City Weekly)

DJ Jodie Harsh tweeted: Fran Cutler’s birthday party was off the hook.  (The Daily Mail)

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