Apropos of Nothing: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 11, 2023

The phrase "apropos of nothing" means that a comment or action is not related to anything previously discussed or done. It's used to introduce a topic that has no connection or relevance to the ongoing conversation. People say it to denote a sudden, unexpected, or out-of-context remark.

In short:

"Apropos of nothing" means a remark or action is unrelated to the current conversation or situation.

What Does "Apropos of Nothing" Mean?

The idiom "apropos of nothing" signifies a sudden or unexpected conversation shift or an action unrelated to the current situation. It is typically used to preface a statement that doesn't follow the natural flow of the ongoing dialogue or scenario.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • A remark or comment made that bears no relevance to the ongoing discussion or context.
  • It can also denote a sudden change in a topic without an obvious reason or link.
  • You can use this idiom to bring up something unrelated to what's currently being discussed.
  • For example, "Apropos of nothing, have you seen the latest episode of that new TV show?".

Where Does "Apropos of Nothing" Come From?

The phrase "apropos of nothing" has its origins in French. "Apropos" translates to "with regard to" or "in reference to," and the addition of "nothing" emphasizes the lack of connection or relevance. This idiom has been used in English literature and conversation to introduce an out-of-context comment or abrupt change in the topic.

Historical Usage

"And then she turned laughingly to put her arm round my mother's neck, and tell, apropos of nothing, how twice that day she had been addressed in the village as Miss Browne."

- Nothing New, Tales by Dinah Maria Craik, 1857

10 Examples of "Apropos of Nothing" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom in use:

  • She blurted out, apropos of nothing, that she loved living life on the edge.
  • Apropos of nothing, he brought up his trip to Spain during a business meeting.
  • She liked to explore the nooks and crannies of the old mansion, apropos of nothing.
  • He was a tech nerd who often talked about gadgets and software, apropos of nothing.
  • Apropos of nothing, Johnny Law started reading my Miranda rights.
  • During our conversation about the economy, he started talking about his cat, apropos of nothing.
  • Apropos of nothing, she exclaimed that she wanted to dye her hair purple.
  • He suddenly told me to get out of Dodge and move to another city, apropos of nothing.
  • Apropos of nothing, she started reminiscing about her childhood days.
  • He suddenly shouted, "I love pizza!" apropos of nothing, which confused everyone.

Examples of "Apropos of Nothing" in Pop Culture

From books to movies, the idiom "apropos of nothing" often appears in popular culture:

  • "Apropos of Nothing" is the title of an autobiography by Woody Allen, released in 2020.
  • In the crime-drama TV series The Closer (2005-2012), Louie Provenza tells Sharon Raydor, "Apropos of nothing, really, when can Major Crimes start planning your retirement party?"
  • In the TV series Just Shoot Me, Jack Gallo tells Maya, "A notion just popped into my head. Pop, apropos of nothing. What do you say when I say 'dating service'?"
  • "Sir Apropos of Nothing - Volume 1" is a book by Peter David. The story revolves around the protagonist, Sir Apropos, who is portrayed as an itinerant squire with a tragic background.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Apropos of Nothing"

There are several synonyms and phrases that can be used as alternatives to "apropos of nothing," depending on the context:

  • Out of the blue
  • Suddenly
  • Without warning
  • Without any reason
  • Randomly
  • Unrelatedly
  • Without context
  • Off-topic

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Apropos of Nothing":

  • What is the meaning of "apropos of nothing"?

The phrase "apropos of nothing" usually means introducing a comment or topic that is not related or relevant to the current conversation or situation.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "apropos of nothing"?

The idiom is a combination of the French word "apropos" meaning "with regard to," and "nothing," signifying lack of relevance. It is commonly used in English conversation to abruptly change the topic or introduce an unrelated comment.

  • Can "apropos of nothing" have negative connotations?

While "apropos of nothing" typically doesn't carry a negative connotation, it can sometimes be perceived as disrupting the flow of a conversation or seen as a lack of attention or respect towards the current topic.

  • Can I use "apropos of nothing" in formal writing?

"Apropos of nothing" is generally more suitable for informal or conversational contexts, although it can be used in formal writing for stylistic purposes or to create a specific tone or effect.

  • How can I replace "apropos of nothing" in a sentence?

You can replace "apropos of nothing" with phrases like "out of the blue," "unrelatedly," or "without any reason," depending on the context.

  • Is "apropos of nothing" a British or American idiom?

"Apropos of nothing" is a universal English idiom, understood and used in both British and American English, as well as other English-speaking regions.

  • Do people use it in everyday conversation?

Yes, "apropos of nothing" is commonly used in everyday conversation, especially when introducing a sudden topic change or an out-of-context remark.

  • Is "apropos of nothing" used only to introduce a change in conversation?

While "apropos of nothing" is predominantly used to signify an abrupt shift in conversation or an irrelevant comment, it can also be used more broadly to denote any unexpected, unrelated, or abrupt occurrence or event.

  • Can I use it to describe events?

Yes, "apropos of nothing" can be used to describe events. For example, "Apropos of nothing, it started to rain."

  • Can I use "apropos of nothing" in a literal sense?

"Apropos of nothing" is usually used in a figurative sense, as it typically indicates an unexpected or irrelevant occurrence or comment. However, it could be used more literally to describe a sudden, unconnected event.

Final Thoughts About "Apropos of Nothing"

The phrase "apropos of nothing" represents a shift in conversation or introduces a comment that is seemingly unrelated to the ongoing topic or situation. The idiom is widespread in English, in everyday conversations, literature, and even film scripts.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Apropos of nothing" is a useful idiom for introducing a sudden topic change or interjecting with an unrelated comment or thought.
  • This expression is helpful for guiding conversations in new directions or breaking the ice with a random, unexpected topic.
  • Want to diversify your vocabulary? Try using synonyms such as "out of the blue," "unrelatedly," or "randomly" to express the same idea in different ways.

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