I just bumped into a sentence spoken by a native speaker that went as "I think the correlation is very out there."

From the context, I thought he meant the correlation was low/weak. Google Translate, however, says that "out" here means high/strong, which is exactly the opposite.

What does that suppose to mean? Is that a legit English phrasing, or it's merely an informal/casual expression?

Or he was actually saying it like, "the correlation is very out there"? What does "out there" mean in this sentence?

1 Answer 1


They are not saying it is "out", they are saying it is "out there". "Out there" is a set phrase in English. According to the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary, it means "very strange or unusual" or "out of the ordinary". (Note that their entry is for "out-there", turned into a simpler adjective with a hyphen. In most contexts, such as in your example, it will be a phrase without a hyphen.)

In your context, I think you're correct that they mean it's weak. It's not a phrase I'd personally use to describe a correlation. I wonder if it's conflating "out there" to describe people who would believe in the correlation being significant, as themselves being outliers due to it being a weak correlation.

  • 1
    Depending on context (correlation between what?) out can also mean inaccurate, off the mark, as in the measurements were out by several centimetres. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:25
  • @KateBunting your phrase I've heard used, but I haven't heard it used without a qualifier like your "by several centimetres". Is it used without a qualifier in the UK? In the US I think we'd usually use "off" instead (though I don't work in science), and we can use "off" without a qualifier.
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:28
  • I'm not quite sure if I get your last sentence correctly. (Could you elaborate more?) Due to my understanding, I don't think this is the scenario. He was literally describing two factors, saying that the correlation between A and B is out there. I think "very strange or unusual" and "out of the ordinary" is probably the case here. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:39
  • @AsherShang in that case they might mean strong. I'd expect it to mean strong without the "very" but with spoken emphasis on "out". With the "very" there, I have a hard time guessing.
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:43
  • @AsherShang for the example in my last sentence, when spoken, there'd be an awkward pause between "very" and "out".
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .