'Out of Sight, Out of Mind': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 26, 2023

If you've heard the saying 'Out of sight, out of mind,' you might have wondered what it means. If so, you're in the right place. In this article, you'll learn the meaning of this popular idiom, its possible origins, and how to use it in a sentence.

But if you're just here to find out what it means, here it is:

  • 'Out of sight, out of mind' means that if you don't see something or someone in a while, you're likely to forget about it/them.

What Does 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind' Mean?

'Out of sight, out of mind' is an idiom, and it's used to express the fact that it's easy to forget about something or someone if you don't see it for a long time.

For example:

  • If you don't see a friend for a prolonged period of time, you'll start thinking about them less and less.
  • Or, if there's a troublesome situation or thing that upsets you, if you avoid it for a while, you'll eventually forget about it.

Imagine, for example, that you've been working on a very stressful case at the office. Your friend might say:

Don't worry; as soon as you complete this case next week, you can stop thinking about it. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Because you won't be working on the case anymore, you won't be thinking about it as much, and eventually, you'll forget about it.

Some variants of this phrase include:

  • Out of sight is out of mind.
  • Outta sight is outta mind. (colloquial)

Where Does 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind' Come From?

If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that the origin of this phrase can be traced back to ancient times. In fact, there's a chance it dates all the way back to the composition of the Bible. Psalm 31 reads:

Trapped by a siege, I panicked. “Out of sight, out of mind,” I said. But you heard me say it, you heard and listened.

It also appears in the Greek poem The Odyssey, which is attributed to Homer and dates back to the early 8th century BC. An English translation reads:

He’s lost and gone now—out of sight, out of mind—and I …
he’s left me tears and grief. Nor do I rack my heart
and grieve for him alone. No longer. Now the gods
have invented other miseries to plague me.

We know it's been used as an idiom since at least the 13th century, as it appeared in John Heywood's A Dialogue Conteynyng Prouerbes and Epigrammes.

He said:

Out of sight out of minde.

Examples in Sentences

Now that we've covered the meaning of this idiom and its origins, here are some example sentences that use it:

After moving to a different city, my old friends seem to be out of sight, out of mind.

Once the project was completed and put on the shelf, it was out of sight, out of mind for the team.

The moment the toy disappeared behind the couch, the toddler lost interest—truly, out of sight, out of mind.

Once we were on vacation, work-related stress dissipated; the relaxing days by the beach meant that they were out of sight, out of mind.

I have a tendency to forget about tasks that are not in my immediate view—out of sight, out of mind.

People often find that friendships fade when they're separated by long distances; it's a classic case of out of sight, out of mind.

The old photos in the attic were out of sight for years, and with time, the memories associated with them became out of mind as well.

As soon as the holiday decorations are packed away, they become out of sight, out of mind until the next festive season.

The once-cherished possessions stored in the garage became out of sight, out of mind as they were replaced with new items.

After changing jobs, the daily routine of the previous workplace quickly became out of sight, out of mind.

Other Ways to Say 'No Rest for the Wicked'

There are other ways to say that the work never ends. They're great to use if you're looking for alternative phrases.

  • Gone and forgotten
  • What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over
  • Lost to memory
  • In the rearview mirror
  • Faded into the background
  • Buried in the past

There's even a popular idiom that means the exact opposite. It goes:

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Concluding Thoughts

That concludes this article about this popular idiom. To summarize, when you say 'Out of sight, out of mind,' you're saying that it's much easier to stop thinking or caring about something or someone if it's not on your radar for a while.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!    

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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