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I was reading some other forum and came across the debate on 'curious' word. The senior member responds telling all of below mentioned sentences mean the same thing.

Just for curiosity´s sake, .......
Just for the sake of curiosity, ...
Just out of curiosity, ....

Now, my question:

If something is out of scope, it means that thing and scope are (far?) away from each other. And so is with out of context, out of the world, out of syllabus... and instances the like.

Whoa, but then...

Asking out of curiosity - means that question and curiosity are poles apart? I'm not at all curious about it?

Now, what if I really mean that I'm not curious? The way we use --

Jack, just out of context....but your English is too bad.

If I use curiosity in the same way.. it'd be --

"We are all here to discuss our curiosities about learning English. Julie, tell me about your curiosity..." there Micky stands up and talks about French and I stop him in between... "French... ah... it's out of (our) curiosity... isn't it guys?" and all guys approve..yey!

How do I understand whether someone is really interested if s/he tells or asks out of curiosity

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I'm a little surprised that you asked this question. –  Zhanlong Zheng Jun 27 at 9:54
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@ZhanlongZheng I can ask anything. It's out of my curiosity ;) Tell me what I meant! –  Maulik V Jun 27 at 10:25
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Out of curiosity, are you out of curiosity what answer will you get? –  nicael Jun 27 at 12:24
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Re the title, when the answer you expect is of the form "Yes, it does mean that/No, it doesn't mean that", the question should be "doesn't it?" not "isn't it?" –  David Richerby Jun 27 at 21:50
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@MaulikV David is correct: your title is ungrammatical. It should be "Doesn't it?" –  starsplusplus Jun 28 at 17:40

7 Answers 7

'Out of curiosity' means I'm not curious at all. Right?

Not quite.

The "out of" in "just out of curiosity" is nothing like the "out of" in "out of gas".

Instead, that "out of" means "stemming from" or "originating from" – it means the speaker is curious, and that curiosity is prompting the person to ask a question:

Just out of curiosity, how long have you two been dating?

If the person really isn't curious, but is asking the question anyway, that would start with something like:

Not that I really care, but, how long have you two been dating?


It's also worth noting that, in the phrase "out of curiosity," we are alluding to the first meaning of curiosity, and not the second (definitions from NOAD):

curiosity
1 a strong desire to know or learn something
2 a strange or unusual object or fact


Lastly, it's worth pointing out that this doesn't sound natural at all:

"We are all here to discuss our curiosities about learning English."

I think you mean to say something like one of these:

We are all here to discuss how we are curious about learning English.
We are all here to discuss our curiosity with the English language.

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Why curiosity won't go with about? There's room for curiosity about the motivations of others. is absolutely okay. –  Maulik V Jun 27 at 10:31
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Curiosity in the first meaning isn't usually pluralized in my experience. If we were each curious in the same way then we could discuss our [shared] curiosity about learning English. If each of us is curious in a different way about learning English, then although it's grammatically correct to discuss our [various] curiosities about learning English, the plural risks shading the meaning towards the second definition of "curiosity" above. That is to say, we have between us many things strange or unusual about learning English, and are discussing them. –  Steve Jessop Jun 27 at 22:48
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@user2125348 - RE: "To say that a word that doesn't even mean ‘stemming from’ should mean ‘stemming from’ is ridiculous". You, like many of the learners here, looked up the WRONG entry in the dictionary. Had you looked up out of, instead of merely out, you would have seen Definition 2: used as a function word to indicate origin, source, or cause. (In other words, stemming from.) The phrase is generally parsed as (out of) (curiosity), not (out) (of) (curiosity). –  J.R. Jun 29 at 0:08
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@user2125348: While you are technically correct, the idiomatic meaning that J.R. explains is not only the more common way to understand out of curiosity, it's the one that seems to be confusing the OP. I don't see anything wrong at all with the fact that J.R.'s answer focuses on the potentially confusing aspects of this phrase instead of getting sidetracked with technicalities, and possibly causing even more confusion. –  tsleyson Jun 29 at 3:16
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...who first quoted the wrong dictionary entry, and then had the audacity to YELL and call me "ignorant." Some time ago, I challenged you to find me just two published examples where "out of curiosity" meant that someone had literally run out of curiosity, and you've not yet even provided one. RE: "I NEVER said out "usually means away" - let me paste from your previous comment: Especially because out usually means away not with or because of. –  J.R. Jun 29 at 6:20

Out of curiosity means because of [my] curiosity. (Sense 8 under "out" preposition uses in Collins)

All of your examples involving curiosity more or less mean the same.

Out of context, out of the world, out of syllabus mean that the item is without context, external to the world (or more commonly, very exciting or unbelievable) and not in the syllabus, respectively.

I don't think that you would actually say

Jack, just out of context... but your English is too bad.

It doesn't seem idiomatic, and it's probably because of the but.

In the same way, I don't think you could say that something is out(side) of our curiosity. You might say it's not our concern, or it's outside the scope of that discussion, but saying that something is out of our curiosity seems incredibly unusual.

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It's also defined in Macmillan Dictionary, under "out of interest/respect/pity etc." –  Damkerng T. Jun 27 at 9:35
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I also find the line you quote to exactly conflate the two meanings of "out" under discussion. It's not the "but" but the "just". "Just" can mean "barely" in a spatial relationship, as in "the remote control was just out of reach", leading to "...barely outside of the context...". "Just" can also be a restriction applied to a scope ("just once, I'd like ...", "I was just sad [and nothing else].") and in this sense, gives "...only coming from context...". Without the "just", this ambiguity vanishes for me, leaving the "coming forth from" meaning. –  Eric Towers Jun 29 at 16:50

You can think of it as an abbreviated form of:

I am asking out of curiosity.

which would be parallel to:

I am begging out of hunger.

or:

I would rather avoid violence, but I am fighting out of necessity.

The "out of" here indicates the motivation or reason for the asking.

It does not mean:

I have run out of curiosity.

although that would be the case if you had said "I am out of curiosity".

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I'm not sure what this adds over the other answers. –  starsplusplus Jun 28 at 17:43
    
@starsplusplus it adds that the phrase can be found with different meanings in a different context –  user2125348 Jun 29 at 0:55
    
I think this answer is helpful. It points out that the weird use of out of in out of curiosity isn't an isolated occurrence, and that there are other places where out of X means with X as my motive. –  tsleyson Jun 29 at 3:19

It's a way of saying that you don't really need to know for any practical purpose, but you'd like to anyway. Like a French teacher has a Japanese student in her class and she says "Just out of curiosity, how does noun gender work in Japanese?" It's a way of making conversation.

You can also use it semi-ironically, as in "Just out of curiosity, what would happen if two people in the database had the same social security number". (And yes, they can).

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"Out of ..." may mean because of, or in response to. On the other hand "Out of ..." may be a statement to mean that there is none available, of the subject matter of which we are out: for example "Out of petrol, we had to walk the last five miles to petrol station".

"Out of curiosity.........." is said as the opening of a sentence which will most frequently be a question: for example "Because of my curiosity, I ask you how long have you been dating?" But, "Out of ...." may precede a statement with empathic tenet; for example; "Out of my sympathy for you I will give you a drink". In both of these examples the "Out of .." is more commonly spoken from an individual's perspective of their own feelings.

Whereas, the other use of "Out of ...." tends to be used to describe a set of conditions, the circumstances with which we together can find ourselves confronted.

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"Out of" has several contradictory meanings. It's these various meanings that are "poles apart," causing the confusion.

One meaning is "lacking" or "all used up." That's the meaning you believed to be operative. "With my curiosity all used up, I'm not curious." But "out of" used this way, refers to physical objects. "I'm out of food." But not to an intangible object, like "curiosity."

Another meaning is "Because of." That's the standard meaning in this context (for an intangible object). "Because of my curiosity, I'd like to know..."

A third meaning is "outside of" (physically), as in "out of the house." That meaning has no relevance here.

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The words "Out of..." mean that's the reason why.

The word "curiosity" means that the asker is asking, not because they really need to know the answer, but because they are curious. They may be acknowledging that their question isn't about the main point but that they are going off on a tangent because they are wondering about the reasons why something is the way that it is.

So, I would say "yes", the asker is really curious and wants to understand something.

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