Out Of Left Field


When something comes “out of left field,” that means it was surprising or unexpected.

Example: Cole has put on weight over the years. He’s not happy with how heavy he has become, so he’s planning to go on a diet. “I’m gonna eat healthier starting today,” he said. However, Cole’s determination was quickly put to the test when out of left field his wife came home with a box full of donuts.

In other words, his wife surprised him with the donuts; it was unexpected.

Synonyms: out of nowhere, out of the blue, took (him/her) by surprise

A baseball pitcher throwing out of left field.

The Origin Of “Out Of Left Field”

The phrase “out of left field” is believed to have originated from baseball. However, its exact origin, how it came from baseball, is not clear. Let’s go over why:

In baseball, there are three outfield positions—the right fielder, the center fielder, and the left fielder. When a ball is hit hard enough, the outfielders job is to catch it, or if the ball touches the ground, retrieve the ball throw it back to the infield.

The saying “out of left field” must obviously be referring to the left side of a baseball field, and the thing coming “out” of it would be the baseball. But why is this phrase specifically about the left field, why not the others? Well, concerning that, there’s one explanation that suggests the following:

Imagine this scenario—A batter hits the ball and there is a base runner sprinting towards home plate. In this situation, the base runner would be facing away from the left field. So if the left fielder scoops up the ball and throws it to home plate, the runner would be unable to see it, thus it would catch him by surprise.

So perhaps the phrase originated specifically from that situation. Even if it didn’t, well, at least we know it must have come from baseball in some way. So that’s something, I guess.

Example Sentence(s)

I was having a nice walk until out of left field a medium-sized dog started to run towards me while barking.

Related Examples:

  • Tom was exercising on the treadmill when out of the blue his leg got a cramp, so he had to stop.
  • I was eating dinner when out of nowhere I started to smell a skunk.

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