The phrases “out for lunch”, “out to lunch”, and “out at lunch” are all very similar. This can make it quite confusing to distinguish the differences between these different phrases. This article will be highlighting these phrases, what they mean and how to appropriately use them.
What Is The Difference Between “Out For Lunch”, “Out To Lunch”, And “Out At Lunch”?
In the English Language, we generally use the phrase “out to lunch” as a euphemism for someone who is a little bit crazy or mentally unstable. When we say someone is “out for lunch” or “out at lunch”, we are generally just meaning to say they have gone out to get food.
What Does “Out For Lunch” Mean?
We will often say someone is “out for lunch” when they have left the workplace or their home, in order to pick up some takeaway or eat a meal at a restaurant. This is not meant to be a complicated phrase, or hold any hidden meanings.
This is merely a way to express that someone has left where they were previously, so that they may retrieve food – whether for themselves or for a group of people.
We will now go over the following examples that highlight the use of this phrase:
- He went out for lunch today but should be returning around 1 pm. Shall I let him know you stopped by?
- Our boss brought the entire staff out for lunch, which we call considered to be a very kind gesture.
- She is out for lunch at the moment, but I will have her call you back as soon as she returns to the office.
- We are going out for lunch at the new Italian Bistro restaurant today.
- The entire office is out for lunch at the moment, I am the only one here manning the phones.
What Does “Out To Lunch” Mean?
We can consider “out to lunch” as a very commonly used and known euphemism, especially in English European countries like Britain, Ireland or Scotland. This euphemism is meant to depict someone that is slightly crazy or currently acting mentally unhinged or unpredictable.
We will more often than not, use the term “out to lunch” in a joking or non-serious manner. However, we can use the term in an appropriate serious situation, but it may come across as insensitive.
We will now go over the following examples that showcase the use of this phrase:
- She has been acting completely out to lunch for the last few weeks – I hope she is okay.
- He is someone that you could certainly consider as being out to lunch. It seems like he never understands what’s going on or how to read the room.
- Our boss is so hilarious and loveable, but he’s entirely out to lunch which makes it very difficult to get any work done.
- You’re acting entirely out to lunch today, so I suggest you take a moment and step outside for some fresh air.
- He was so out to lunch and acting so erratically, that we felt the need to call the police for further assistance.
What Does “Out At Lunch” Mean?
We will commonly say that someone is “out at lunch” when we are informing someone else that they are currently away from their desk, work, etc. This is often a way of saying someone is on a lunch break and that they will be back soon.
We will now look over the following examples that highlight the use of this particular phrase:
- I’m sorry, but he is out at lunch right now. However, I would be happy to get him to give you a call when he returns.
- The staff is out at lunch right now, but they should be back any moment if you’d like to take a seat in our waiting room.
- She is out at lunch, as our manager felt that she could use a little break.
- He is out at lunch with his wife, where they are apparently discussing the status of their marriage.
- We will be out at lunch for noon if you would like to join us at the local Pizzeria.
Is “Out For Lunch”, “Out To Lunch”, Or “Out At Lunch” Used The Most?
According to Google Ngram Viewer, the most popular or commonly used phrase out of the three options is “out to lunch”, which is followed fairly closely behind by “out for lunch”. Lastly, “out at lunch” is the least used phrase.
We can see that since the early 1900s, the use of “out to lunch” has steadily increased. The same can be said for the phrase “out for lunch”, which although not as popular, has seen a similar heightened increase in use.
The phrase “out at lunch” has never been commonly used. As we can see on the chart, the use of this phrase has barely fluctuated in over 200 years.
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.