catch (one) red-handed
catch (one) red-handed
To see, and perhaps apprehend, someone as they are doing something (often something nefarious). The phrase might have originally referred to blood on a murderer's hands. The police caught the robbers red-handed as they ransacked another house. Timmy tried to get into the cookie jar again, but I caught him red-handed.
Seen or apprehended in the act of doing something, especially something illegal or nefarious. He tried to deny that he had stolen the money, but he was caught red-handed by security cameras.
See also: caught
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
catch someone red-handedand catch someone flat-footed
to catch a person in the act of doing something wrong. (See also caught red-handed.) Tom was stealing the car when the police drove by and caught him red-handed. Mary tried to cash a forged check at the bank, and the teller caught her red-handed.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Also, catch in the act. Apprehend someone in the course of wrongdoing, as in The boys were trying to steal a car and the police caught them red-handed, or He tried to cheat on the exam, but his teacher walked in and caught him in the act. The first term referred to blood on a murderer's hands and originally signified only that crime. Later it was extended to any offense. The variant ( catch in the act) is a translation of the Latin in flagrante delicto, part of the Roman code and long used in English law.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
catch someone red-handed
COMMON If you catch someone red-handed, you see or find them while they are doing something illegal or wrong. The burglar was on the roof and was caught red-handed by the police. They all pleaded guilty to conspiring to import drugs after being caught red-handed by customs officers. Note: The reference here is to a guilty person whose hands are covered in blood.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
catch somebody red-ˈhandedfind somebody while they are doing something wrong, committing a crime, etc: The thief was caught red-handed as she was emptying the till.This originally referred to catching a person with blood still on their hands after killing somebody.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
catch (someone) red-handed, to
To apprehend in the act of committing a crime. The term, which alludes to the presence of blood on the hands of a murderer, originally referred only to that crime. Later it was extended to mean the same as “to catch in the act,” an English translation of the Latin in flagrante delicto, taken from the Roman code and long used in law. “I did but tie one fellow, who was taken red-handed,” wrote Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe (1819).
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer