(1880-1912) a British explorer who went with Captain Scott on his journey to the South Pole. On the way back, Oates was suffering from frostbite and could no longer walk fast enough, so he deliberately killed himself by going out into the snow, because he did not want to delay the other members of the team. His last words, "I am just going outside, and may be some time", are now often said humorously by someone when they are about to do something difficult or slightly dangerous, and they are not sure when they will return.
Definition from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
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