Grammar

Scot-Free or Scott-Free? Should You Use One T or Two?

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There’s an old phrase involving punishment that you’ve surely heard and may have even used. But should it be scot-free or scott-free?

From time to time, I take a look at idioms. But before we look at the phrase itself, we need to settle a basic spelling question: Is it scot-free or scott-free?

Idioms are phrases that carry a specific meaning that may not be immediately clear when you look at it at face value. When we use idioms long enough for them to become well-known, they become clear to native English speakers. But those new to the language might find them very confusing.

This particular phrase dates back to late Old English. So people definitely used this little phrase for a long time!

Scot-free or Scott-free?

The short answer is that you want the shorter version: Scot-free is the correct choice. You can easily find examples of the idiom used in headlines.

Recently, you may have read the story about Los Angeles Dodgers’ star Shohei Ohtani. He alleged his former interpreter stole money from him to place illegal sports bets. You may also remember Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, who was banned from the sport for betting on games while he was a manager.

Rose raised eyebrows when he speculated he could have gotten away with what people accused him if only he had an interpreter. Consider this headline from NBC Sports:

Pete Rose says he’d be ‘scot-free’ if he had an interpreter like Shohei Ohtani

In Old English, the word scot referred to a royal tax, the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us. If you did not have to pay that tax, the item could be “scot-free.”

But over time, it took on a broader meaning: to escape any kind of penalty or punishment.

So when someone “gets off scot-free” with something, it means they escape any consequences they may deserve.

Not that we know you only need a single T, we’ve now let that mysterious “Scott” guy off the hook.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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