What does "to be off with someone" mean in this sentence "Ever since I said no to him, he's been very off with me."?

  • 4
    It's a bit weird but it implies that he became unfriendly..??
    – Void
    May 31, 2021 at 13:57
  • 22
    Perfectly normal in the UK. She's been a bit off with me for a couple of weeks. I found out it's because I made a joke about Brexit supporters being stupid, and her favourite uncle is Nigel Farage. May 31, 2021 at 15:12
  • 2
    Although the answers given here are correct, I just thought it worth mentioning that the phrase "Be off with you!" means either "get going" or "are you serious?" depending on context - another use of the same construction that shouldn't be confused.
    – Edd
    Jun 1, 2021 at 4:56
  • 2
    How about "I'm off" = "I'm leaving"; "I'm off with my colleague" = "My colleague and I are both leaving together"?
    – Stef
    Jun 1, 2021 at 13:52
  • 1
    @Eclairyang Yes, rarely used like that in the U.S. Jun 1, 2021 at 17:46

5 Answers 5


33. slightly abnormal
34. not up to standard; not so good or satisfactory as usual; inferior or subnormal

It's between these two definitions. If I say, "He's been off with me," or, "He's been very off with me," it means that things are not the same between us, that he hasn't been treating me like he normally does, that there's an awkwardness, issue, or something going on with him that's affecting his behavior towards me, like maybe he's upset with me about something I said or did, which I maybe don't even know what that something is because I didn't realize he took offense, got hurt feelings, or had whatever emotional reaction he had that's making things off between us as he maybe hasn't told me, or maybe he's just been in a funk or in a funny mood lately about something completely unrelated to me, but whatever it is up with him, the way he's been with me, the way our relationship has been lately, has been not like it usually is, and not in a good way. It's that strangeness in him and how it's affecting how he's treating me by his treatment of me being substandard that I'm commenting on.

Being that the usage is somewhat slangy or informal, I believe this definition from Urban Dictionary sums it up, as well:

To be weird, off center, not normal.
"she's a bit off"

  • Your Urban Dictionary usage is "short for" off the wall - perhaps with a nod to BrE off one's trolley and Australian off the planet (bonkers, insane). It doesn't have any particular implication of "unfriendly", which I'm sure is central to OP's context. May 31, 2021 at 15:58
  • 7
    That's an unfounded assumption. It doesn't say that. I've never taken it to mean that, either. "Off the wall" is straight-up bizarre, extremely unconventional (dictionary.com/browse/off-the-wall), and as your source states, often intentional. When someone's "off," it tends to be subtle, the person saying it saying it often because others maybe haven't noticed it but only they themselves notice that that person is being off with them. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Unless you have some foundation for your assertion that it's "short for 'off the wall,'" it's unfounded. May 31, 2021 at 17:28
  • 1
    You have no foundation for that assertion, either. My comments don't underline the relevance of any such advice, much less provide foundation, quite to the contrary. This is a widely used and extremely common expression. To find an abundance of examples of just how widely and how often this expression is used, I've done a Google Ngram and added the word "seemed," which is often couched beforehand, in order to differentiate this particular usage of "off" from others, like that might mean a person is off in any other respect, like "off of work." May 31, 2021 at 17:39
  • 2
    Ho hum. It seems plain as day to me that if someone's attitude is described as "off" after having been refused something, the intended meaning is far more likely to be my cool in manner, unfriendly, rather than your weird or @randomhead's inappropriate. But what do I know? May 31, 2021 at 17:46
  • 3
    Now you're unfoundedly interpreting "weird" as meaning something other than its usage in the citation for the definition of "off," which is made clear in its further elaboration, and you're glossing over the fact that your answer asserts "off" is contracted from "offhand," which again, is an assertion you make without foundation, unlike all of my assertions. If I'm being "off" with you, I'm acting unlike I normally do in some way with you that has you feeling like things are not as they should be, which is not in any way necessarily my being brusque, curt, cavalier, etc., what "offhand" means. May 31, 2021 at 17:59

off, adjective
7. Inappropriate; untoward
I felt that his comments were a bit off.

As used in your example, the meaning is not quite as above, but similar. It sounds like the person is being unfriendly, distant, and awkward, rather than inappropriate.


As a native speaker, one aspect I'd often understood of phrases like "a bit off" was by analogy to something like milk or cheese (or indeed other perishable items like meat) that has turned sour or otherwise started to acquire an unpleasant flavour or odour, which could also be described as "a bit off".

Conversely, when it has curdled and become so sour nobody would have any doubts it had "gone off", it would be considered "very off".

By analogy, when someone is interacting with you in a different (and less pleasant) way than you would normally expect, you could describe that interaction as "a bit off" or even "very off" depending on the circumstances - not the interaction you were expecting, and either subtly or very noticeably different to the normal friendly response you expected.

In essence, it is suggesting that the relationship/friendship/interaction has at least started to turn sour.

  • 1
    It's certainly a commentary on the relationship status. I take it to mean that the relationship has gone sour, much like how milk that has spoiled can be said to be "off". When a relationship is "on", then interactions are smooth and amicable. When a relationship is "off", then then there is tension or unpleasantness. But it could also mean specifically annoyed or irritated as in "put off", or informally, "ticked off", or "p***ed off"
    – Wyck
    Jun 1, 2021 at 21:16

I think the cited usage is contracted from He's been very offhand with me lately...

enter image description here

offhand - Ungraciously or offensively nonchalant or cool in manner.

I'd say the contracted version is slightly "slangy". Also it's probably best avoided by non-native speakers (in favour of offhand) because in certain contexts the intended meaning might not be clear (since off has an awful lot of different meanings! :)

  • 3
    In the usage I’m used to (as a BrE speaker), offhand is completely different from this usage of off. If a co-worker is a bit offhand with me, it means they’re being a bit (too?) casual and careless about things, just as the definition you give suggests. If they’re a bit off with me, it means almost the opposite — distant, standoffish, overly reserved.
    – PLL
    Jun 1, 2021 at 14:39
  • 1
    Yes, that's the "nonchalant" nuance of the cited definition. I probably overstated the idea of "contracted from" in my answer, but at least offhand only really spans a 1-dimensional range from "careless" to "unfriendly". The number of possible meanings for off involves far more than even three "clines", so us 3-dimensional human beings can't even properly visualise the "semantic range" of the shorter term. Jun 1, 2021 at 14:57

After a clarification in comments, I see that other answers fit the intent of the question. Just for completeness, note that “He’s off with Joe” (as in the original question) can also mean that he and Joe have gone somewhere together.

You must log in to answer this question.

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