Attested 1950, popularized in the Korean War (1950–53) in such phrases as “bug-out fever” (rout) and “the big bug out” (November/December 1950 retreat) and entered civilian slang by mid 1950s. Likely originated in World War II, perhaps based on 1930s cartoons featuring bugs fleeing an impending foot or boot. Ultimately based on the rapid, disorderly flight of bugs when discovered, particularly their scattering if several are discovered at once, such as under a rock or can. Compare chicken out.
- (idiomatic, intransitive) To leave (a place) hastily (originally military).
- It's time I bugged out of this town, it ain't safe no more.
- (idiomatic, intransitive) to abandon someone without warning.
- I'm not gonna bug out on you, I promise.
- (idiomatic, intransitive) miss school, play truant, play hooky.
- I go to Stockton High, but normally I bug out.
- (idiomatic, transitive, of one's eyes) To cause to bulge
- Kim Goodman holds the world record for bugging out her eyes.
- (idiomatic, computing) To crash or glitch
- My PC keeps bugging out, for no reason it will reboot after a few hours.
- ^ “The term probably originated in World War II and came into wide use during the Korean War. By the mid-1950s it was also civilian slang.” Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and other Combative Capers by Christine Ammer (NTC Publishing Group, Chicago, Ill., 1989, 1999), page 44, quoted in The Phrase Finder, “Re: Bug out”, by ESC on April 23, 2004
- ^ Re: "Luke the gook," "Gook" and "Bug out", KOREAN-WAR-L, by John R. Carpenter, 5 Aug 2002