bug out

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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.[1] Likely originated in World War II, perhaps based on 1930s cartoons featuring bugs fleeing an impending foot or boot.[2] 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.


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bug out (third-person singular simple present bugs out, present participle bugging out, simple past and past participle bugged out)

  1. (slang, intransitive, originally military) To leave (a place) hastily.
    It's time I bugged out of this town: it ain't safe no more.
  2. (slang, intransitive) To abandon someone without warning.
    I'm not gonna bug out on you, I promise.
  3. (slang, intransitive) To miss school, play truant, play hooky.
    I go to Stockton High, but normally I bug out.
  4. (slang, transitive, of one's eyes) To cause to bulge.
    Kim Goodman holds the world record for bugging out her eyes.
  5. (slang, intransitive) To freak out, to go crazy, e.g. from worry.
    • 2006 September 26, L. Divine, Drama High: The Fight, Dafina Young Adult, →ISBN:
      She gets her nails done every Friday, so I know she's bugging out by now because her polish has moved up from the cuticle just a tiny bit, indicating that her nails ain't fresh. “Mickey, how the hell I'm just gone walk up to someone and []
    • 2012 November 13, 50 Cent, Laura Moser, Playground, Penguin, →ISBN, page 89:
      "That's 'cause I'm taking the train into the city right now," I said, "and she's bugging out about my missing it."
  6. (intransitive, slang, computing) To crash or glitch.
    My PC keeps bugging out and rebooting for no reason.

Derived terms[edit]


bug out (plural bug outs)

  1. (military, slang) A rapid retreat, a rout.


Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ “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
  2. ^ Re: "Luke the gook," "Gook" and "Bug out", KOREAN-WAR-L, by John R. Carpenter, 5 Aug 2002