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?


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. Jul 10 '20 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
    Jul 10 '20 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. Jul 10 '20 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
    Jul 10 '20 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
    Jul 10 '20 at 12:47

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