This is a comment made by an internet poster:

He did take the blame for losing his job, yet you feel the need to call him out for blaming others and not taking personal responsibility.

What does call out mean in his comment? I have looked it up in several dictionaries, but couldn't find this phrase listed in them.


This is actually a comment made by the poster johnnymorales_ in response to the remark made by the poster tinwoman on this article. The comment section is all the way at the bottom. I excluded the article because I thought it would be too long to read.

  • Perhaps, this could help you call out – Hakan Apr 2 '14 at 14:36
  • @Hakan Those definitions doesn't seem to be relevant to the context. – Theo Apr 2 '14 at 14:38

OP's context is an example of OED's definition #3 for the phrasal verb to call out (first recorded 1823)...

To challenge to fight (esp. a duel).

It's effectively a figurative extension of usages such as...

"Come outside and say that!" (repeat your insult, and we will fight where it is more convenient)

...but the modern usage doesn't directly refer to fighting with duelling swords or fists. The metaphoric "weapons" which will be used in the "contest" are justifications (facts and logical arguments).

By implication, the person issuing the challenge expects to win, because he doesn't think the other person actually has valid justification for whatever he said, implied, or did. It's important to note that you can just as easily be "called out" over disapproved-of action (or inaction) as a disputed statement...

"If your husband never helps with the housework, you should call him out about it."

That's to say, to call [someone] out over/about X means to demand that they justify X.


More often than not, TO CALL SOMEONE OUT ON SOMETHING is used in the context of:

A-pointing out someone’s dishonesty and lies;

B-telling someone what you’ve been meaning to tell them for a long time (in which case there’s a certain degree of challenge involved);

C-bringing some unspoken truth to the attention of a wider audience (and CALLING OUT those who’ve been guilty of concealing the truth).

I think the explanation "B" is relevant to this context.

  • I'm not sure (because I don't know the whole context), but I think I'd incline toward A. Anyway, I think all of the A, B, C might be applied here. – Damkerng T. Apr 2 '14 at 14:49
  • I don't really think any of those "contexts" capture the essence of the usage being queried. Arguably, #B comes closest, but the "meaning to tell them for a long time" element has nothing to do with the usage as such. – FumbleFingers Apr 2 '14 at 15:48

Along with all the other answers, the term can be used in a little less confrontational manner, too. It can simply mean that you are making a person aware of some sort of error that he's not aware of. It's a little stronger than "point out", however, because there's a sense in the term of pointing out a mistake that needs to be corrected.

For example, you might call someone out for wearing green socks with a tuxedo, or for saying that the default value for the CursorLocation property in an ADO Recordset is adUseClient (which it isn't). There isn't necessarily a demand that they justify their position; they can simply say that they stand corrected and move on. On the other hand, there is the understanding if you call someone out that you are quite capable of justifying your position, should the callee require it of you.

In the particular sentence, the speaker is actually "calling out" the person he is talking to. He's saying that someone took responsibility for losing his job, and that the listener is accusing him of not having done so. So, he's confronting the listener with an error on the listener's part.

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