Get Out Of Jail Free Card Meaning

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Have you heard the phrase ‘Get Out Of Jail Free Card’ and wondered what it actually means? Maybe you’ve never realized where that phrase came from? 

With this quick guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about the meaning of a Get Out Of Jail Free card, including where the phrase first originated, some examples of where it is used and whether the cards have ever really existed.

Get Out Of Jail Free card

What is the meaning of a Get Out Of Jail Free card?

In general terms, a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free card’ is a device or alibi that you can use to get out of an undesirable situation, or to avoid punishment for your actions. It’s an idiom that’s widely used in various scenarios if you get away with something.

It’s a phrase used in light-hearted discussion but also in serious debate. Many people have described Vladmir Putin’s threat of nuclear weapon use as his own get-out-of-jail-free card, since he can make threats of using the weapons to get out of some consequences of his actions in Ukraine.

In fact, whenever a senior political figure ‘gets away’ with something, they’re often described as having used a card like this. Sometimes it’s not even about the card – the get out of jail meaning is the same thing.

Hilary Clinton was described as using her own Get Out Of Jail Free Card with the email scandal, although you could argue she hardly got away with it completely since it derailed her presidential bid.

But then it’s also used for less serious scenarios. A lot of mention is made of a Get Out Of Jail Free card on Facebook. 

The Facebook meme often revolves around people who have received a ban from a Facebook group, or from Facebook in general, only to see the temporary ban end or have it overturned on appeal. They will often then boast about having their own Get Out Of Facebook Jail Free card.

Where did the term Get Out Of Jail Free card come from?

Despite historic examples that could be seen as a Get Out Of Jail Free card, the idiom was born from the board game Monopoly. Some Chance and Community Chest cards allow the player to escape jail without rolling a double or paying the fine.

Read more: How Get Out Of Jail Free Cards Work

Get Out Of Jail Free card

The earliest versions of Monopoly, released in the 1930s, had the Jail space and included the cards that could be used to escape. These cards can be sold or traded in the game to other players.

As Monopoly is iconic, so too are the cards and spaces, and so it’s no surprise that the term ‘Get Out Of Jail Free card’ has become so widely known off the back of the game’s popularity.

Monopoly in jail

There are some people online who have joked about handing over a Chance or Community Chest card to a police officer in real life when caught speeding. Whether they’re serious or not, it’s hard to say.

I wouldn’t recommend it though. The chances of catching a police officer in the right mood to make them laugh if you have been breaking the law are slim.

You can even buy, which could be a fun thing to present to your partner – provided you set some ground rules around what they can get away with when using the card.

Are Get Out of Jail Free cards real?

There are no official Get Out Of Jail Free cards that you can use in real life, although there have been some similar items in history.

Modern examples include Police Benevolent Association cards used in New York, which are supposed to be issued to family members and friends of police officers. Officially they are designed to show other officers that you are a friend of the police, but some people use them as a way of getting lenient treatment for minor infractions.

Historically there have been other examples too, including a lottery held in Britain in the 1500s where every entrant was exempt from arrest for all but the most major crimes.

Read more: Real Life Get Out Of Jail Free Cards

The Bottom Line

Despite examples in history of some get-out-of-jail agreements, the first known use of the term ‘Get Out Of Jail Free card’ comes from the earliest versions of Monopoly. 

The fact that it’s now used so widely, to discuss Facebook bans or to describe serious indiscretions or threats by politicians, is a sign of just how far-reaching Monopoly’s popularity is. And the card is so iconic that you can buy someone a gift themed around it and they will know exactly what it is and the inspiration behind it.

So if you’re at a trivia night and you’re asked “Get Out of Jail Free card is an iconic phrase from which board game?” you don’t just know the answer, but you know the history too.

Now make sure you’re up to speed on how Get Out of Jail Free cards work so that you’re ready to use them during your next Monopoly game.

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Jenni Fielding

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Monopoly Land - an unofficial fan site. She has been a huge fan of Monopoly and has been playing the game for over 30 years. She is a stickler for the rules and loves to find vintage Monopoly sets in second-hand shops.