Pan out

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The idiom pan out has been in use since the mid-1800s. We will examine the definition of the expression pan out, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To pan out describes something that turns out successfully, something that worked the way it should have or has turned out well. Pan out may also simply refer to how something turned out. The idiom pan out began as a gold mining term. One way to recover gold is to wash the dirt in a shallow pan, allowing the dirt to slosh out of the pan while the heavier gold remains in the bottom. This is an effective way to recover gold of all sizes, from nuggets to dust. The expression pan out came to be used as an idiom as early as the 1860s. Related terms are pans out, panned, out, panning out. The negative form is also used to describe something that is unsuccessful, as in didn’t pan out.


Li Song has the qualities of a textbook serial entrepreneur: he loves talking about ideas, is capable of putting them into action, knows how to pivot when things don’t pan out and has a huge appetite for risk. (The South China Morning Post)

Even if the stunt didn’t pan out in the press, it did elicit a somewhat predictable response from Ivey, who said “I certainly don’t agree with the agenda or values of that organization.” (The Trussville Tribune)

Here is a look at how the rest of the Indian Premier League’s round-robin games are likely to pan out over the next three days. (The National)

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