What does the idiom "be caught red-handed" mean?

The phrase be caught red-handed is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of be caught red-handed.

Meaning of "be caught red-handed"


The phrase "caught red-handed" is a colloquial English expression referring to the physical act of being caught in the middle of a misdeed. It can also refer to the act of being caught after the fact, insofar as there is evidence that the act was performed. It is the equivalent of being guilty of an offense without question. It is often used to describe a situation in which someone is caught while they are doing something they shouldn't be doing.


The exact origins of the phrase “caught red-handed” are uncertain. One theory suggests that it dates back to Scotland in the 16th century, when it referred to being caught with blood on one’s hands. It is thought to have been derived from the phrase “red-hand”, which was a legal term used to describe the act of criminal trespass. Another theory suggests that it originated from the 1700s, when it was used to describe being caught cheating in a card game. Regardless of its origins, the phrase has been popularized in modern times and used as a figure of speech to describe being caught in the act of a wrongdoing.


The phrase “caught red-handed” is used in both informal and formal contexts, although more often in informal contexts. It is typically used to describe someone who has been caught while they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing, or who has been found guilty of a crime without question. It is often used humorously, and is sometimes used as a teasing remark.

Example Sentences

  • I caught my brother red-handed trying to sneak a snack from the cupboard.
  • The police caught the thief red-handed trying to break into the store.
  • I knew I was in trouble when my boss caught me red-handed with my feet up on the desk.
  • Don't even try to deny it. We have you red-handed!

The meanings of the words in the "be caught red-handed" idiom

From One Language to Another: Idioms in Translation

Translating idioms from one language to another can be a tricky task, as the cultural context behind an idiom can be difficult to capture. For example, the French phrase "avoir le cafard" translates to "to have the cockroach," which means to feel down or depressed. Similarly, the Chinese idiom "????" (j?ng d? zh? w?) translates to "frog at the bottom of a well," which refers to someone with a narrow view of the world.


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