Both run away and run off mean escape, but is there any difference?

  • 2
    Your title: run off vs. run away. Your question: run away vs. get away. Can you kindly clarify? Should it be, run off vs. run away vs. get away?
    – shin
    Feb 1, 2016 at 6:26
  • @shin Thanks for pointing that out. Just noticed that. Was in the middle of writing an answer for "run off vs run away"
    – Alex K
    Feb 1, 2016 at 6:26
  • For a famous usage of run off, see the scene from Oh Brother where art thou. Note that while the meaning is standard, the grammar and spelling are not.
    – GoDucks
    Feb 1, 2016 at 7:09
  • As above, we cannot tell what you're asking about. Furthermore, have you tried to find the meanings by searching online (eg., define run off)? Feb 1, 2016 at 8:50
  • You can use either run off or run away interchangeably if you mean to escape or elope. However, run away is more common in this sense.
    – Khan
    Feb 1, 2016 at 9:38

3 Answers 3


Run away means you put distance between yourself and the unpleasant thing. It doesn't say whether your escape was successful. It doesn't say whether you're coming back. It doesn't say whether anyone will catch up with you.

Run off means you went somewhere that you cannot be effectively retrieved either because you went someplace hard to reach or because no one knows where you went. It usually implies that you're not coming back. "Run off" can almost always be changed to "run away" without making a statement false.

A specific use of "run away" is actually closer to the meaning of "run off", and that is when a child or teenager runs away from their parents for a long period of time (days, months, years or permanently). The child or teenager is said to be "running away from home" and is referred to as a "runaway".

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/run%20off gives another usage of "run off".
Run off can refer to causing someone else to run off.

  • "I ran off the intruder by chasing him and throwing rocks at him".
  • "The intruder ran off when I chased him and threw rocks at him".

Both sentence are good and mean pretty much the same thing.


To run away is to escape an undesirable situation with the usual implication of not coming back

run away from the burning building
The run aways left home by bus
The dish ran away with the spoon

it can also mean out of control

the run away train

but because something is running away it does not necessarily mean it will get away

they ran away from the police but were caught before they got away in their get away car

To get away is to successful evade (usually) capture

he got away from the law
We will get away for the weekend by running away without the kids

it can also mean a vacation or holiday

a quick get away to a foreign country
tropical island get away
Take some time off and get away from it all

If you run away it does not mean you will get away, but if you get away it means you successfully ran away

One usually will run off with someone or something in a sudden manner

she ran off with her boyfriend before anyone noticed
he ran off with the goods when no one was looking

If you run away it is best to run off and not delay, or you might get caught and not be able to get away from whatever is chasing you.

  • 1
    When it's overflow, it's normally written runoff just as "overflow" isn't written "over flow". Feb 1, 2016 at 12:10
  • I disagree. I believe your answer confuses two distinct (though related) meanings of "run away". The more common meaning is to literally run away from something, with no implication as to whether you will return. A separate meaning is to "run away from home", a meaning that ironically is closer to the meaning of "run off" because to "run off" implies that you will never return and often implies that that no one knows where you went.
    – Readin
    Feb 3, 2016 at 4:36

That's quite a tricky question as I found out. As a non-native I had to consult Oald. They have an entry for to run off with, saying that to run away with and to run off with are interchangeable.

There is also an entry for to run off with special meanings.See BrE and AmE.



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