sign off: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘sign off’ mean?

Idiom: sign off

Meaning: To formally end or conclude something, often by giving permission or approval.

Idiom Explorer


One idiom that has a significant place in the English language is "sign off." This widely used idiom has various meanings depending on the context.

At its most basic level, "sign off" refers to formally ending or completing something. This includes tasks, projects, or communication. For instance, in the context of work, when someone "signs off" on a project, they indicate that it is finished and can move forward to the next stage.

In the realm of communication, "sign off" often indicates concluding a conversation or interaction. This can be seen in various mediums, such as email, where individuals commonly use phrases like "signing off" or "signing out" to indicate the end of their message.

Furthermore, "sign off" can also mean giving final approval or authorization. When someone "signs off" on a document or decision, they give their official endorsement or consent.

Beyond these specific meanings, "sign off" also has a figurative usage. It can be used to convey the idea of relinquishing control or responsibility. For example, someone might say they are "signing off" on a topic to indicate that they no longer wish to discuss or engage with it.

The sign off

The related idiom, "log off," is similar to "sign off" in that it also refers to ending or completing an action. However, "log off" specifically pertains to ending a session on a computer or online platform. It is commonly used when referring to signing out of an online account or platform, similar to how one would "sign off" in a conversation or communication.

Another related idiom is "sign on." This phrase is often used to indicate the act of beginning or joining something. It can refer to starting a new job, becoming a member of a group or organization, or joining a contract or agreement. Whereas "sign off" suggests the end or completion of something, "sign on" represents the beginning or initiation of an action or commitment.

The idioms "log off" and "sign on" share similarities with "sign off" in that they all involve the act of beginning or ending an action. "Log off" specifically relates to computer or online sessions, while "sign on" pertains to joining or starting something new.

The origins of the idiom "sign off" likely stem from the practice of physically signing one's name to indicate completion or agreement. Over time, the phrase "sign off" has come to symbolize the act of finalizing or concluding something. It has evolved into a versatile idiom that encompasses various meanings related to ending, completing, and approving.

The enduring usage of "sign off" demonstrates its adaptability and relevance in modern society. It provides a concise way to express the concept of concluding or finishing something. "Sign off" remains a valuable and widely understood idiom, reflecting the importance of formalizing and concluding tasks, communication, and decision-making.

As language continues to evolve, idioms like "sign off," "log off," and "sign on" will likely adapt and remain integral tools for expressing the complexities of human actions and interactions.

Example usage


  1. He signed off on the project, giving his approval for it to move forward.
  2. The news anchor signed off at the end of the broadcast with his usual catchphrase.
  3. After a long day of work, the employee signed off and logged out of his computer.

The idiom "sign off" can be used in different contexts to indicate various actions. In the first example, it means giving approval or authorization for something to proceed. In the second example, it refers to the act of concluding or ending something, often with a familiar phrase or gesture. Lastly, in the third example, it signifies the action of officially logging out or finishing a task, typically related to technology or work.

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