There's a line in the movie Mystic River:

We never got along. I flat out didn't like him. And he cut out on his wife when she was pregnant with that little mute of hers.

The phrasal verb cut out has many meanings, but what does cut out on mean here? Does it mean "to exclude" as in "We need to cut them out of future deals"?

  • "To exclude" is not one of its meanings. You are thinking of cut {someone} out. He cut his wife out of the will but she hired a lawyer. Here it is cut out on {someone}
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:46

2 Answers 2


to cut out on {someone} is to leave them in haste, often in a manner that disadvantages the person or persons who have been cut out on.

He cut out on us at the last minute, so we have to split the cost of the trip two ways instead of three.

P.S. You can also speak of devices cutting out on someone, where it means to stop working suddenly, again with the implication of disadvantage.

The engine cut out on us when we were half way across the lake.

The radio cut out on us just as the dispatcher was giving us the street address.

  • Is there the link to the expression? It doesn't google for what I tried. My upvote. though
    – Victor B.
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:35
  • @Rompey: It is a very common expression in colloquial register.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:39
  • After the edit has been made, I wish I could upvote twice, but a very common expression it is why did it not take its place at any online resource. Also, when the radio cuts out, it's not only we that it cuts out on. Why the preposition "on" then? Does it add something to the idea we're trying to express? In which way, if it does?
    – Victor B.
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:49
  • The object of preposition on is the party inconvenienced or disadvantaged by the cutting out, per the speaker's POV. In any case, the radio cuts out on us, and us can include the dispatcher :-) The phrase might not have its own entry inasmuch as on us (i.e. on {someone}) can partner with a number of verbs. The TV went haywire on us. The postal clerk went ballistic on her when she asked for prettier stamps.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:52
  • Don't go all lexicographer on me. I just asked for a simple paraphrase. The object of preposition on bears the brunt of the action, whatever it may be.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:58

It means that he left his wife.

It comes from the one of the meanings of cut out.

[Merriam-Webster; scroll down to intransitive verb]

1 : to depart in haste

  • So the idiom should be "to cut out on someone"? Will you kindly provide the link to it flat out?
    – Victor B.
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 20:31
  • @rompey I had provided a link. It may have been confused because I'd linked it to left his wife rather than to cut out. Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 23:39

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