There are 2 situations:

Situation 1: I have to get to work at 7:30 am so I often set my alarm clock for 7 am on a weekday. Now the alarm clock goes off and I wake up at 7 am but I feel very tired so I turn off the alarm clock and tell myself "I'll take a nap for 5 more minutes and will get up at 7:05 am" but when I get up, it's 7:40 already.

Can I say "I slept in and was late for work" in this situation?

Situation 2: it's Sunday and I don't have to go to work. I often get up at 8am on Sundays. But today (Sunday) I just sleep and let myself wake up whenever I need to wake up. When I wake up, it's 9am already.

Can I say "I slept in" in this situation?

Does "I slept in" imply I did it on purpose (as in situation 2) or by accident (as in situation 1)?

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    In situation 1, you can say either one, and it won't matter to your boss. He'll tell you, "Don't do it again."
    – Wastrel
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 13:58
  • Should there be or is there a tag to indicate a preference towards a given cultural context? I.e., British English, South African English, American English, or Australian English or Canadian English or what not?
    – Abraham
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 18:21
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    @Abraham Did you search for them?
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 21:11
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    @holydragon There is "sleep out" (noun and verb) that refers to sleeping outdoors under the stars, for fun and enjoyment. In the US, kids would ask their parents "Can we have a sleep out?" It, too, is normally by choice. We wouldn't normally say of a homeless person that they are "sleeping out".
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 11:20

4 Answers 4


slept in means slept late intentionally. overslept means woke up late, unintentionally.

P.S. I'm a native speaker of American English and it's possible other dialects of English might use this phrase differently, and possible that in AmE the verb sleep in has developed the meaning of "to sleep late accidentally". But in my multiple decades of speaking AmE, I've never heard it used that way.

Merriam-Webster includes "oversleep" as one of the meanings of sleep in, but does not include whether intransitive oversleeping is intentional or accidental, though I've only heard it used with the "accidentally" meaning, and they offer a definition for a transitive oversleep where it has the intentional meaning, though they don't offer any attestation, and I have never heard a sentence where oversleep has a direct object. I've heard "I slept through my alarm."

Here is the meaning I've always heard for "sleep in":

sleep in

slept in; sleeping in; sleeps in
intransitive verb

to sleep late intentionally
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    Where? In UK usage, "sleep in" commonly means accidentally and "oversleep" is rare. In the US, "oversleep" is more common for both accidental and deliberate. If a British person slept through their alarm clock they would say they slept in; an American would probably say they overslept.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:43
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    @StuartF As a Brit I would more likely use "oversleep" for accidental. Maybe this is an Americanism that has crept into my vocabulary but I don't think any Brit would find it unusual. As for the opposite, I'm thinking of that famous scene from the first Home Alone film where the (American) parents shout "WE SLEPT IN!". So while there might be more of a tendancy towards one or the other among Brits and Americans I don't think this is universal. However I will say I agree with the broad strokes that to me by default "slept in" means intentionally and "overslept" is always unintentional.
    – Muzer
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:56
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    I will also say than in British English you can "have a lie-in" which is unambiguously intentional (it's often got the connotation of lying in bed relaxing without necessarily being asleep though).
    – Muzer
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:56
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    Just chiming in to say that as an American, TimR's answer is accurate to my experiences. If someone said "I slept in" with no qualifiers, I would assume it was intentional. If they said "I overslept" with no qualifiers, I would assume it was unintentional.
    – reffu
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:59
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    If my alarm clock fails to go off and I'm late for work, I will call my boss and say "I overslept." I would never say "I slept in" in that circumstance.
    – barbecue
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 19:32

The dictionaries all agree that to sleep in is to stay in bed longer than usual - but none I can find indicate whether or not that's intentional.
My own personal experience as a UK native differs from that of other answers, both here & in the linked QA.

To me, to sleep in is unintentional, as is oversleep.

To remain in bed longer than usual intentionally is to lie in.
One potentially interesting thing about 'lie in' is it tends not to be conjugated for tense. You might say "I'm lying in this morning" but more frequently it would be phrased as something you 'have' rather than 'do'.

I'm having a lie in this morning.
I had a lie in yesterday.
I might have a lie in tomorrow.

After comments, it seems the Oxford Learner's Dictionary defines this as British usage.

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    Are you from the UK? This matches what I understand to be normal British usage, but I think it's different in the US, and no idea about other countries.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:45
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    Yes, UK native. I'll add that to the answer. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:51
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    (1) lie in is not used (at all) in the US. (2) Purely FWIW mentioning "lie in" has absolutely nothing to do with this question (there are 20? 40? other phrases similar to the one mentioned in the question - why mention one or any of them?) (3) It's completely commonplace, both in the UK and US, to use sleep-in to mean deliberately. Your girlfriend rolls over and tells you "let's sleep in today!"
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 22:27
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    @Fattie - then downvote my answer & write your own. Don't just snipe in comments. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 7:06
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    @Fattie I disagree 100% - the only phrase I would ever use for deliberate time in bed is "lie in", which makes it relevant to the original question, as it runs counter to the idea of "sleep in" as deliberate.
    – MikeB
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 14:49

Can I say "I slept in and was late for work" in this situation?

You can absolutely say that, sleeping past your intended time to wake up is "I slept in", were you late for work? If yes, then this is still a true statement. But it does leave the intent ambiguous compared to other phrases, which can often be a good thing.

Does "I slept in" imply I did it on purpose or by accident?

In most cases, the reason why you slept in or if the act was on purpose or an accident is irrelevant. It is a neutral term really with regard to your intent, you have described the action without giving any context. This means that the recipient of this information is going to process it with regard to how your tardiness has affected them, how late you were for the engagement and whether you arrive at all will further impact the outcome.

As a general phrase, "I slept in" is used because by not disclosing exactly why you slept in or if you did it on purpose or not means that you can rely on existing goodwill to help determine the outcome.

  • In any scenario, if you were to sleep in often, then it demonstrates lack of effort and lack of regard or disrespect for the engagement that you missed.

Other phrases like "I had a lie-in today" or "I chose the sleep in" or "I turned my alarm off last night" clearly define that this act was on purpose and pre-meditated (it is reasonable to expect that those actions would lead to you sleeping in too long), which will generally reflect poorly on you, but will sometimes get you credit for honesty.

  • In the context of work this is a common phrase to use. It is generally received as an excuse. The fact that you slept in deliberately because the you snoozed the alarm or slept through it or forgot to set it in the first place is irrelevant. To arrive at work at the prescribed time is your responsibility, so it is incumbent on you to ensure that necessary precautions are taken to get you there on time.

Even in scenarios where slept in due to power-loss or your dog ate your phone or alarm clock, your intent is irrelevant. The more specific or elaborate that your excuse might be to try and justify why you did not wake up is even more likely to reflect poorly on you, this is another reason why using the simple phrase "I slept in" is helpful, it avoids the suspicion that you are trying to cover up the fact that you slept in on purpose or had a reasonable expectation before you went to sleep that you would sleep in, even if you did not do it specifically on purpose.

The number one reason why we sleep is that our body did not get enough sleep in the first place. That might be due to a medical condition, the environment you sleep in, having kids or a partner, or pets that keep waking you up, sleeping with the TV on, staying up too late, drinking or taking other substances whether they be medicinal or not before going to bed...

It is generally accepted that All of these things are to a degree within your control. If it is important for you to wake up on time in the morning, then you will take whatever precaution that is needed to ensure that these other factors that affect you, will not prevent you from waking up on time.

If you were talking about the fact that you "slept in, and was late for work" to a third party who was unaffected by this, then you might choose to disclose why you think or why you deliberately slept in. But if you were talking to someone who was affected, either because it was important to them or your lateness/absence meant that they had to put in more effort to cover you then they will not be impressed to hear that you did it on purpose, nor would they be happy to hear that you didn't put in the necessary effort to ensure that you were there on time. For these people keeping it short with "I slept in" is generally the best defence you can offer, it is probably better not to disclose any further details. However, it would be polite to apologise :)

  • The only generally acceptable excuse for lateness is medical or major environmental emergencies that are truly beyond your control. Every other excuse is simply that, and excuse and admission that you didn't put in the required effort.

I think using "slept in" can potentially mean both intentional or unintentional. If a friend just said "sorry, I slept in", I'd probably assume they hit the snooze button one too many times by accident. But if they provided some context like "I decided to sleep in since it's my day off," then I'd know it was on purpose. That's why I think adding a little explanation goes a long way. 😉

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