Call Out: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 5, 2023

The idiom "call out" refers to drawing attention to someone's behavior, usually to criticize or challenge it. It's often used when someone wants to address an issue publicly or directly rather than staying silent or ignoring it.

In short:

"Call out" encourages addressing questionable or inappropriate behavior, promoting transparency and accountability.

What Does "Call Out" Mean?

"Call out" is a widely used English idiom that signifies publicly challenging or criticizing someone's behavior, action, or words. It embodies the act of highlighting wrongdoings and promoting transparency and accountability.

Let's delve into its essence and application:

  • "Calling out" refers to addressing or confronting someone's inappropriate or offensive actions.
  • This tactic is often employed to encourage change in behavior, promoting a more respectful and fair environment.
  • You'll find it frequently used in discussions about social issues, where people call out harmful stereotypes, biases, or prejudices.

Where Does "Call Out" Come From?

The phrase "call out" likely originated from the concept of vocally drawing attention to something. Historically, it might have involved calling out to a group or an individual to garner attention. In contemporary usage, it has shifted to addressing inappropriate actions or behavior, fostering a sense of accountability.

10 Examples of "Call Out" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom in action:

  • She decided to call out his sexist comments during the meeting.
  • Calling out their discriminatory practices led to a significant policy change.
  • Even though we're on good terms, I won't hesitate to call you out when you're in the wrong.
  • She claimed he was the devil incarnate and called him out on his cruel behavior.
  • Despite the potential backlash, he felt it was important to call out the systemic issues at play.
  • They called out the celebrities for their insensitive remarks on social media.
  • My father called me out and said, "Do as I say, not as I do."
  • After he shared a lame joke, I had to call him out and tell him it wasn't as funny as he thought.
  • The protestors called out the government for its inaction.
  • Arguing with him felt like talking to a brick wall until I finally decided to call him out on his stubbornness.

Examples of "Call Out" in Pop Culture

The phrase "call out" is frequently used in pop culture, typically referring to the act of publicly criticizing or challenging inappropriate behavior or actions.

Here are some examples:

  • "Call Out My Name" is a song by The Weeknd, in which he metaphorically calls out a past lover.
  • The TV show "The Good Place" regularly calls out ethical dilemmas and societal issues.
  • In the film "Spotlight," journalists call out the Catholic Church's cover-up of sexual abuse cases.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Call Out"

Several phrases convey a similar meaning to "call out."

Here are some of them:

  • Challenge
  • Criticize
  • Take issue with
  • Question
  • Reprimand
  • Speak out against
  • Condemn
  • Expose
  • Rebuke
  • Hold accountable

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Call Out":

  • What does "call out" mean?

"Call out" refers to the act of publicly challenging or criticizing someone's behavior, actions, or words, often to highlight a problem and promote change.

  • How can I use "call out" in a sentence?

You can use "call out" in a sentence to indicate that someone is confronting an issue or behavior. For instance, "During the town hall meeting, she called out the council's lack of action on environmental issues."

  • Where does the idiom "call out" come from?

The phrase "call out" likely originated from the idea of vocally drawing attention to something, which evolved into a means of highlighting and addressing inappropriate actions or behavior.

  • Is "call out" mostly used in negative contexts?

"Call out" often implies criticism or confrontation, which might seem negative. However, the goal of calling out is generally to promote positive change or to uphold fairness and justice, so the underlying intention is typically positive.

  • Is "call out" appropriate in professional settings?

Yes, "call out" can be used professionally when addressing inappropriate behavior or actions. It should be done respectfully and constructively to promote a healthier and more inclusive work environment.

  • Is "call out" an aggressive action?

Not necessarily. The intention behind "call out" is to address inappropriate behavior or actions. While it can be confrontational, it doesn't have to be aggressive. The goal is to promote change and understanding, which is often best achieved through respectful dialogue.

  • What is the difference between "call out" and "call on"?

While "call out" refers to challenging or criticizing behavior, "call on" usually means to ask someone to do something, or to visit someone.

  • Can I use it in a non-confrontational way?

Yes, "call out" can be done in a respectful and constructive manner, focusing on the behavior or action rather than the person, and suggesting ways to improve or correct the situation.

  • Can I use it to praise someone?

While "call out" typically implies criticism, in some contexts it can be used to acknowledge someone's achievements or contributions, as in "calling out" their good work. However, this usage is less common.

  • Is "call out" a global concept?

Yes, while the phrase "call out" is English, the concept of challenging or confronting behavior or actions in order to promote change is universally recognized across different cultures and languages.

Final Thoughts About "Call Out"

The phrase "call out" underscores the importance of accountability and confronting problematic behavior. A speaker may use it in personal, social, and professional contexts and it serves as a tool to promote justice, fairness, and positive change.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Call out" is about challenging or criticizing inappropriate actions or behavior.
  • It's a call to promote change and uphold justice and fairness.
  • The action of calling out can be confrontational, but it doesn't have to be aggressive—it's about constructive dialogue and promoting understanding.

The phrase serves as a reminder that silence can perpetuate problems and that voicing concerns, even when difficult, is often necessary for improvement and growth.

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