Is there an idiom that means doing something unilaterally without asking?

I was thinking "on their own accord"?

For example:

The airline cancelled my flight on their own accord

Does that make sense? Any other suggestions?

  • 3
    of their own accord, of, not on/
    – Lambie
    May 27, 2023 at 22:59
  • 1
    Note that of their own accord doesn't work at all for the cited context. It means without needing to be persuaded, which clearly isn't what you're trying to say. The mere fact that this isn't already obvious to you must be evidence that the meaning isn't completely transparent. That's why you probably shouldn't go looking for "idiomatic" usages - most of whose meanings need to be individually learned and remembered (and usually don't help you with other idioms). Learn literal usages first! May 28, 2023 at 17:57

4 Answers 4


The word is...

unilaterally (Cambridge Dictionary)
in a way that involves doing or deciding something without first asking or agreeing with another person, group, or country (emphasis mine)

Dictionary example usage...
Employers cannot unilaterally change your contract terms
OP's context...
The airline unilaterally cancelled my flight

  • They already know about that word. They used it in the question. They're looking for an idiom. May 28, 2023 at 3:28
  • 1
    Why look for an "idiom" (expression with no obvious meaning unless you know it) when the actual word everyone uses is staring you in the face? The nearest idiom I know is off one's own bat, but I would seriously advise the OP not to go around saying things like The airline cancelled my flight off their own bat. Even people who know the idiom will mostly think that's a weird context in which to use it. Without so much as a by your leave? Hmm. May 28, 2023 at 10:25
  • If I didn't speak English natively, the word "unilaterally" might strike me as cumbersome, and a bit hoity-toity and Latinate. Sometimes the right answer is "Nah, you're good with that word. Everybody uses it.".
    – JonathanZ
    May 29, 2023 at 1:22
  • @JonathanZsupportsMonicaC: It might. But you do. Besides, given that he thought "on their own accord" might be a possibility, it's fair to say the OP here doesn't speak English natively. But he knew and used the word "unilaterally" himself, so no worries on that front. May 29, 2023 at 10:05
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers - Hmm, maybe I needed to make it clearer that I was responding to user2357112 - and I guess writing in someone else's voice ("If I didn't speak English natively...") also is confusing. I personally think "unilaterally" works perfectly, and that the question is another example of the funny pattern where the person knows (and uses) the correct word, but they don't realize they already have their answer.
    – JonathanZ
    May 29, 2023 at 13:22

In the UK you could say that they did it off their own bat.

idiom UK informal

to do something without anyone else telling you or asking you to do it:

I didn't ask her to buy them a present - she did it off her own bat.


You may hear off their own back meaning the same but it’s only because it sounds similar. Best source I could find is here : https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/off-your-own-back-and-four-other-common-english-phrases-you-may-be-using-incorrectly-404542

Off your own back

This phrase is often used to refer to something done using one’s own initiative. But in origin it is a cricketing idiom, and should correctly be “off your own bat” – distinguishing runs scored through the batsman’s skill from “extras” accrued without hitting the ball (byes, wides, no-balls, overthrows). This phrase is one of many cricketing idioms in regular use in English.


In the context of the flight cancellation, phrases I might use include "without consulting me" or "without telling me".

"Of their own accord" has the right meaning, but also includes the nuance of "on a whim" or suggests they didn't have the authority to make that decision. While they should have consulted you, an airline does have the authority to cancel a flight.

  • They cancelled my flight without my knowledge might also be said. But this is more about the situation of the person than it is about the airline..
    – lit
    May 28, 2023 at 1:53

Not an idiom but a word, quite formal, but commonly used to express the idea of not being told or informed about something.


Unbeknownst / unbeknown to me, the airline cancelled my flight.

Collins Dictionary defines the phrase unbeknown to somebody as “If something happens unbeknown to you or unbeknownst to you, you do not know about it.”

The following would be the equivalent idiom

be kept in the dark (about something)

To be kept uninformed (about something); to be excluded from full knowledge or disclosure (of something).

  • “I was kept in the dark when my flight was cancelled.”

The OP's suggestion of someone's own accord doesn't quite succeed because it means doing something without being coerced or forced. It expresses the idea of a person's free will; doing something because they want to do it.

  • She came of her own accord. No one asked her to come.
  • All the demonstrators took part of their own accord.
  • He decided to go of his own accord.
  • 1
    There's nothing in the question that suggests they didn't inform the customer, just that they didn't ask first.
    – Barmar
    May 29, 2023 at 12:59
  • @Barmar the correct answer is FF's, which I've already upvoted. However, seeing as this is a site for learners, I think the listed expressions will be helpful to know, I also explained why "off my own accord" did not fit. In any case, the true crux of the matter is the customer was ignorant of any change until it was too late. Unbeknown(st) to somebody refers to decisions made without a customer's consent and without any forewarning.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 29, 2023 at 13:07

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