Go Rogue – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to describe someone’s behavior of going against the norm? You could say they decided to “go rogue” and turn their back on conventional society. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “go rogue” means that someone is going against the grain or against the established order that everyone else follows. The phrase implies that you turn your back on what other people are doing and do your own thing, regardless of what people think.

It can have a bad or good connotation, depending on the context of the conversation.

If someone goes rogue, they refuse to do what you tell them, and they don’t listen to your instructions. They may fail to follow a script or show independent behavior from other people in their social group. To “go rogue” can refer to people or animals, and it can mean the person or animal shows erratic or dangerous behavior.

Example Usage

“That government official decided to go rogue. Now he’s joining the opposition party and spilling the beans on all the internal knowledge he has of their operations.”

“The agent decided to go rogue and went dark three hours ago. There are reports of him surfacing in the city twenty minutes ago.”

“The kids decided to go rogue, and we found them playing in the back room with all the paint supplies on the floor around them.”

“He’s our top salesperson, and he decides to go rogue. Why go away from the script when it made him his fortune?”

“I don’t know what happened to John. He decided to go rogue and didn’t want to listen to our advice. I hope things work out for him, and I wish him the best.”

“Why did the operator go rogue? I think it was because someone told him about the injustices going on in the country's eastern region, and he wanted to help.”


The expression “go rogue” originates from elephant behavior. Dominant males would sometime separate themselves from the herd after battling with the alpha bull. These elephants exhibit wild, erratic behavior and uneven temperaments.

The term has been around since 1835, and the earliest citations of the expression in print come from the early 1900s. Some of the top examples of the use of the phrase “go rogue” include the following.

“Itu gajah dya jehat! (That elephant’s going rogue)” remarked the head axeman, shaking his head. (Published in the Boys’ Life, January, 1924).

“When an elephant goes rogue he never reforms,” said the circus man. (Published in the Springfield Republican, June, 1928).

There is always a reason why these giant pachyderms go rogue, and here in this report we seemed to be able to define this one clearly. (Published in the Dallas Morning News, May, 1931).

Phrases Similar to Go Rogue

  • Off the beaten track.
  • Going solo.
  • Away from the norm.

Phrases Opposite to Go Rogue

  • Comply.
  • Don’t resist.
  • Submit.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Go rogue.

Ways People May Say Go Rogue Incorrectly

Some people may think the term “going rogue” specifically applies to the government or military personnel that turn against their country or leadership. However, going rogue can describe any act of going against the norm or the current established order of things.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Go Rogue

You can use the phrase “go rogue” to describe someone that walks away from the traditional way of doing things or breaks free from the control of other people. The term suits social and professional use. Use it at work to explain how a salesperson went rogue and differed from their sales script to achieve a good or bad result.

Use it at home to describe how your kid went rogue at the playground, and you lost sight of him for a few minutes. It’s a way of saying how people go against the rules by disobeying your instructions. Anyone can "go rogue," from family members to friends or colleagues.

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