an escape from punishment


scot-free = ungeschoren, unbehelligt (straffrei) —— to go scot-free = frei ausgehen, unbestraft bleiben —— to get away (off) scot-free = ungeschoren davonkommen, straflos ausgehen



Sierra Leone’s Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources Soccoh Kabia said that those fishing illegally should not think they can get away “SCOTT-FREE because one of these days we’re going to get you and you’ll pay for it.”

BBC News

The Kardashian sisters, Kim, Kourtney and Khloe, will probably get off SCOT-FREE in the legal battle involving the marketing of their beauty products under a stolen trademarked beauty product name.

The Examiner

Did you


- without receiving the deserved or expected punishment or without being harmed

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary


Many people, especially in the USA, are convinced that the phrase originated with the story of Dred Scott, who was a black slave born in Virginia, in 1799. In several celebrated court cases, right up to the USA Supreme Court in 1857, he attempted to gain his freedom. These cases all failed but Scott was later made a free man. Although plausible, scot-free has nothing to do with Mr. Scott.

Given the reputation of the Scots as being careful with their money we might look to Scotland for the origin of ‘scot-free’, but this would also be wrong.

‘Skat’ is a Scandinavian word for tax or payment and the word migrated to Britain and mutated into ‘scot’ as the name of a redistributive taxation, levied as early the 10th century as a form of help for the poor.

‘Scot’ as a term for tax has been used since then in various forms - Church scot, Rome scot, Soul scot and so on. Whatever the tax, the phrase ‘getting off scot-free’ simply referr to not having to pay taxes.

The first reference in print to ‘scot free’ is in a copy of the Writ of Edward the Confessor made sometime in the 13th century.

The use of the figurative version of the phrase, that is, one where no actual scot tax was paid but in which someone escapes imprisonment, began in the 16th century, as in this example from John Maplet’s natural history Green Forest, 1567:

    “Daniell scaped scotchfree by Gods prouidence.”

So, the first people to go scot-free weren’t from the 19th century USA, but the 16th century; and not from Scotland, but from England.


in the clear, blameless, cleared, exonerated, guiltless, innocent, let off, free of blame, free to go, off the hook, SCOT-FREE, unharmed, unscathed, without penalty/punishment, with no ill consequences/effects

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“Jim was caught speeding in a radar trap last year, but he’s received no fine so far. It looks like he’s gotten off SCOT-FREE.”

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

Paul Smith

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