pan out

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pan out

  1. (usually transitive) To separate and recover (valuable minerals) by swirling dirt or crushed rock in a pan of water, in the manner of a traditional prospector seeking gold.
    • 1907, Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography, ch. 26:
      On the Saturday holidays in summer-time we used to borrow skiffs whose owners were not present and go down the river three miles to the cave hollow (Missourian for "valley"), and there we staked out claims and pretended to dig gold, panning out half a dollar a day at first.
    • 1919, Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton, The Avalanche, ch. 11:
      His father came out in '49 with the gold rush crowd, panned out a good pile, and then, liking the life—San Francisco was a gay little burg those days—opened one of the crack gambling houses down on the Old Plaza.
  2. (idiomatic, usually intransitive) To succeed; to proceed according to plan; to result or end up.
    • 1917, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Bab: A Sub-Deb, ch. 3:
      Many a pretty girl I have seen in my time, who didn't pan out according to specifications when I finally met her.
    • 1998, Friends, episode "The One With Rachel's Crush":
      Joey Tribbiani: "That was just a theory! There's a lot of theories that didn't pan out: lone gunman, communism, geometry…"
    • 2004, Matthew Forney, "Who's Getting It Right?," Time, 17 Oct.:
      The China market is finally panning out, thanks to the voracious consumerism of the middle class.
    Synonyms: shape up, work out