I am now reading this article, and I met a paragraph saying,

Even backbench Conservative MPs looking for a crumb of comfort, or at least a ladder to climb down, were disappointed. “Having met the prime minister earlier today, I was unconvinced that he had a plan to reach a deal on Brexit,” David Gauke tweeted on Tuesday before voting in favor of legislation stopping a no-deal Brexit. If an agreement really was in the offing, Johnson’s own brother Jo, who resigned Thursday citing the tension between family loyalty and national interest, might well have stuck around.

Merriam Unabridged definitions,

transitive verb 1 : to take off : doff 2 slang : kill, murder

intransitive verb 1 of a ship : to move away from shore : start out to sea 2 a : to go away : depart — used chiefly as an imperative b : to get or be off — used chiefly as an imperative

And the free-version definition of Merriam,

Definition of off (Entry 4 of 6)

intransitive verb

: to go away : DEPART —used chiefly as an imperative Off, or I'll shoot!

So it seems to me none seems appropriate.

Thank you for your support.

2 Answers 2


Offing is not a verb here, but a noun meaning

the near or foreseeable future [MW]

I would say you will almost exclusively encounter this meaning in the set phrase in the offing, which is to say

(informal) likely to appear or happen soon [OALD]

as in the example you quote.


The original English usage is interesting to ponder. It goes back to the early 1600's, can be found in the OED:

The part of the visible sea at a distance from the shore beyond anchorages or inshore navigational dangers.

The present day figurative usage in the answer of @choster arose only in the late 1700's.

  • Exactly. Since there are 4-5 definitions for the verb "off" too, in probably middle English, this "word" played some or even great roles by numerous people at various kind of social status,and more interestingly, according to the definition by Merriam Unabridged, the answer word by choster, the very "offing" comprises of off+ing which IMO could imply this noun offing very clearly come from the word off itself.
    – user17814
    Sep 7, 2019 at 16:03
  • And what makes me thrown into more perplexity all the synonyms listed in the MU is all about "future" related. "Even though", there are other 3 definitions of this noun "offing", which is marine-sea-related. I think linguists would be very intrigued by the etymology of this word.
    – user17814
    Sep 7, 2019 at 16:08
  • as you, Lee Moshers's answer says.
    – user17814
    Sep 7, 2019 at 16:09
  • 2
    I'm not a linguist, but I think that transference of terminology between properties of space (in this case the surface of the sea) and time are not that uncommon.
    – Lee Mosher
    Sep 7, 2019 at 16:34
  • My Shorter OED says (for "offing"): "ORIGIN: Perh. from off adverb + -ing". So, the origin's not known. I always thought it came from "offering", as in something "in the offing" is going to be offered to you in the near future. Whether you want it to, or not :-)
    – Tom Hundt
    Sep 8, 2019 at 15:51

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