What does "come out" mean in " 'I came out top in the test,' he bragged"?
There are lots of meaning of come up. I just don't know which meaning I should look at.

  • Which definitions do you think might fit? It seems by process of elimination you could narrow down the number of possibilities. – AmE speaker Nov 26 '17 at 15:59
  • come out as in "outcome" ;) – Florian Castellane Nov 27 '17 at 9:09

To come out is a synonym for the verb emerge, to become manifest, to become known, as with a result or a fact.

Candidate X, candidate Y, and candidate Z vied for the senate seat. Candidate X emerged the winner. Candidate Y came out at the bottom.

The class took an exam and Jane came out tops.

The class took an exam and Jane came out top.

tops = top = at the top (that is, first in a ranking)


To "come out top" means "to come out on top" meaning he got the top score. Another example:

Company X has come out top in the annual ranking of auditors of private companies, in a survey carried out by an industry publication.

This might be a local expression, as it is not as common as "come out on top". To me it sounds somewhat British, as British speakers sometimes leave out parts of speech from certain expressions where Americans would include them, like "Go to hospital". But I could be wrong, and it could be common anywhere.

  • 1
    come out top and come out tops are both idiomatic in my neck of the woods, southeastern Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 26 '17 at 15:45
  • You are right :). That sentence is form LDOCE5. – Dawei Nov 26 '17 at 23:29

This is a metaphorical usage of the phrase "come out" related to the idiom "to be in the thick of" something or the usage of the preposition "in" with activities such as "in school", "in a competition", "in a test".

Furthermore, note that in English you "enter into" something, for example you "enter into college" or you "enter into a competition". Thus the term to "come out" is just a natural extension of this concept of "entering into" or "being in" an activity or pursuit in which one is actively engaged.

Thus how you "come out" reflects on your state of being or state of success once you have completed an activity such as taking a test. It can also be applied to states of being such as mood or health.

Following are some examples of the use of the phrase "come/came out":

"I went through a rough patch [a difficult time] in my life, but I came out alright"

"After the terrible incident the man was in a state of shock, but he has come out of it now."

"This is a particularly challenging semester of school, but I will come out of it a much better English speaker."

"The company had a very competitive interview process, but I came out of it as one of the top candidates."


From your link:


[ + adv/prep or adjective ] to be in a certain condition or to achieve something at the end of a process or activity

In this context, "on" is often put between "came out" and "top".

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