Out of the Blue – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did your friend or your partner drop some random information on you that was totally unexpected? Maybe your boss suddenly cut your hours with no explanation? If so, then you have been blindsided out of the blue. If you are curious about how to use it out of the blue and what it means, we can help. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The phrase out of the blue means that something occurred suddenly and without warning. It can refer to someone coming to visit, information being shared, or even an action. Anything that happens that is completely unexpected is considered to be out of the blue. For example, a person who may be mute suddenly talking would be considered to have been cured out of the blue.

Sudden actions that have no prior triggers are also one way to explain the meaning of out of the blue. Any occurrence of which no one is previously aware also can be called out of the blue.

Example Usage

“John really popped up out of the blue and wanted to borrow a large amount of money”.

“I wish you would stop dropping these projects on me out of the blue, it’s more than I can handle”.

“Having twins was really out of the blue, they must have hidden behind each other the whole time”.

“You can’t just pop up out of the blue and expect me to entertain you and your whole family”.


The phrase out of the blue is a more modern adaptation of an older idiom, a bolt out of the blue. The older version was coined in 1837 and referred to a sudden lightning strike from a clear sky. Though the phrase was specific to lighting, its secondary meaning was that it was unexpected and unplanned. This phrase by Thomas Carlyle was intoned during The French Revolution.

It is not clear when the phrase was shortened to out of the blue, however, it has been noted in several countries from the 1800s up until now. It has been found in print and is also used in conversation to explain sudden events. The phrase is commonly used today in both casual conversations and in professional texts.

Phrases Similar to Out of the Blue

  • Unanticipated
  • Surprising
  • Unplanned
  • Out of left field
  • Unexpected
  • All of a sudden
  • Bluntly
  • Suddenly

Phrases Opposite to Out of the Blue

  • Preplanned
  • Uniformly
  • In sink
  • Heads up
  • Cautiously

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The proper way to say the phrase is – out of the blue.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Out of the Blue

Some ways that out of the blue is used incorrectly are:

  • This is my notice that I no longer plan to maintain this position. I’ll be quitting two weeks from now out of the blue, so hire someone in advance.
  • I will be heading down to the lake this weekend to spend some time out of the blue and in the green of nature.
  • Consider this your formal warning of my intentions, so you can say that you have been notified out of the blue.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Out of the Blue

Some ways that out of the blue is used correctly are:

  • I didn’t see the deer dart out from the forest before it hit my car, it was totally out of the blue.
  • They were high school sweethearts, everyone thought they would be together forever. However, out of the blue, she ran off and married some guy from the varsity team.
  • Our little one really did arrive out of the blue, I didn’t even know I was pregnant.
  • Being serviced with divorced papers out of the blue, that too at work is a fate I would not wish on my enemy.

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