What is a Blank Check?

Blank Check Meaning

Definition: Complete freedom of choice

People write the amount of money they are sending to someone else on the face of a check; therefore, a blank check with a signature but no money amount written in would give the recipient power to fill in however much money he or she desires.

The phrase a blank check is often used to describe giving somebody complete financial freedom, but it can also be used to describe giving freedom in other ways.

For example, if someone is given a blank check to decide whom to hire for their company, he or she is given complete freedom to decide whom to hire without having to go to an authority for permission.

Origin of A Blank Check For

what was the blank checkBlank check comes from the French phrase carte blanche, which means blank slate. It is something empty that can be filled in with whatever details the recipient desires.

Blank check comes from Great Britain, with perhaps the most famous early example coming from an 1884 debate in which one politician said,

  • I have the courage of my opinions, but I have not the temerity to give a political blank cheque [check]…

The term has become especially popular in war times when discussing how a war effort will be financed.

Examples of A Blank Check For

define blank checkIn politics, people often accuse governments of doing things (specifically, many times, declaring wars) with a blank check, meaning that they have not properly planned out how to pay for something. To declare war with a blank check is costly for taxpayers.

However, a blank check is not always negative. Someone may give her daughter a blank check to go shopping for a birthday dress. In this case, the mother has given her daughter permission to spend any amount of money on the dress without restrictions.

More Examples

  • Cuomo seems wary of the $10 billion estimate, when there’s still no actual plan for the new facility, let alone a source of funding. Why sign a blank check, after the billions wasted on the downtown PATH terminal? –New York Post
  • Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) spoke… “President Obama wants a blank check to continue to borrow more and more money, not so we, the present generation, can live up to our responsibilities to make sure that we are fiscally responsible, but rather to foist that debt off on the next generation and beyond, with absolutely no plan in place to repay it.” –Houston Chronicle


The phrase a blank check gives someone complete freedom of power, authority, or money.