flake out on


Senior Member
Slovenia, Slovenian

I was wondering what this expression could mean.
The sentence goes: "Suddenly Jenny felt extremely lonely. She had always relied on her brother for company, but now he was flaking out on her."
(Her brother has a new girlfriend and spends a lot of his time with her; he used to spend more time with his sister.)
Does it mean something like ... hm, "neglect", "stop paying attention"?
Thanks ;)
  • ArtemisTwo

    U.S. English
    It can mean those things in certain contexts, but more generally it means "irresponsible" or "unreliable." In this case, her brother's new love interest is keeping him from being reliably available to her when she feels she needs him.


    Senior Member
    I think it's most commonly used in the U.S. to mean that someone didn't follow through on a promise or a commitment.

    "She said she'd meet us at the mall at 3 p.m., but she never showed up. She just flaked out on us."


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    OK - so this sounds like another major AE/BE difference, unless my very casual understanding of flake out is completely mistaken (or ancient).

    I hear JamesM telling us that she was completely exhausted and despite her best intentions she fell asleep.


    Senior Member
    Yes, in the U.S., "flaking out" means doesn't show up; is unreliable; changes mind at last moment and calls to cancel, etc. Here it doesn't mean falling asleep. That's interesting.


    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    To "flake out" (if I remember the 70s correctly) means to lose it mentally, to go a little ditzy, possibly to lose track of what one was saying. It was said of pot smokers-- an unreliable lot, so I can see the use of "flake out" with that meaning, by association.

    I didn't know "flaked out" meant "fagged out" in BE-- we don't use either expression in that sense.

    Flaking out can be a momentary loss of focus, a mild degree of irrationality-- something a tick or two short of "flipping out." "Spacing out" is a similar expression, but "flaking out" implies doing something in a spacy manner, not just sitting there enjoying your mindless groove.


    Senior Member
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