What Does to Blow Someone Off Mean?

Blow Someone Off Meaning

Definition: To dismiss, ignore, or not follow through on a social engagement.

This North American phrase means to treat someone as unimportant, either by not honoring previously made plans or not acknowledging someone who has greeted you. The latter is usually in passing; you can be said to have blown someone off if they try to talk to you while you are busy or moving and you ignore them.

Another use of this phrase is if you intentionally make plans with someone and then don’t show up or follow through—especially without telling the other person.

Origin of To Blow Someone Off

blow off meaningBlow comes from the Old English word blawan, meaning to move air. To blow a person off is to move past them like the wind. Blow in the sense of depart suddenly has been used since 1902, implying that you might see someone and immediately avoid them.

There is a similar British phrase don’t give me the brush-off, from the 18th century, which inspires the imagery of brushing dirt off your shoulders to remove it. Similarly, you could blow dirt off your shoulders.

If you blow someone off, you are ignoring him, not recognizing him in public, or canceling plans in favor of something else.

Examples of To Blow Someone Off

blew me offIn the modern day, this expression is used in the context of relationships and social engagements. A woman might say of her romantic partner,

  • I was calling him for weeks, but he kept blowing me off. Eventually, I got the message and started dating someone else.

Or, when setting up a date, one could say,

I heard Jane blew you off last night.
She did, but we’re going to the cinema tonight.

If someone doesn’t acknowledge you in public, you can say, “I saw James last night at the mall, but he blew me off. I think he was on the phone with Lisa.” This means James didn’t pay any attention to the speaker.

More Examples

  • “‘I thought he was cute and tried to strike up a conversation,’ Ms. Rexrode said, ‘but he blew me off.’” –The New York Times
  • “Some of the boys were telling me ‘Q’ was yelling at me to change… I don’t know if I kind of blew him off but I figured we had a chance there and decided to take it.” –Chicago Tribune

Summary

This idiom means to fail to keep an appointment with someone or to dismiss someone in public who has acknowledged you.

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