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To cause or get into trouble; to engage in unrestrained and excessively disruptive behavior. (A reference to the biblical figure Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel and was cursed by God.) I started raising Cain as soon as I was in college and could do what I wanted, but I mellowed out after I graduated. The customer has been raising Cain about the service charge we included on his bill.
to make a lot of trouble; to raise hell. (A Biblical reference, from Genesis 4.) Fred was really raising Cain about the whole matter. Let's stop raising Cain.
Also, raise hell or the devil . Behave in a rowdy or disruptive way, as in He said he'd raise Cain if they wouldn't give him a refund, or The gang was out to raise hell that night, or The wind raised the devil with our picnic. The first term alludes to the son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother, Abel. It was first recorded in the St. Louis Daily Pennant (May 2, 1840): "Why have we every reason to believe that Adam and Eve were both rowdies? Because ... they both raised Cain.". This statement makes a pun on raise, meaning "bring up" or "nurturing." The two variants, alluding to bringing hell or the devil up to this world, are older, the first from about 1700, the second from about 1800.
raise Caincreate trouble or a commotion. informal
The sense of raise in this expression is that of summoning a spirit, especially an evil one; similar sayings include raise the Devil and raise hell . A mid 19th-century expression originating in the USA, the particular form raise Cain is possibly a euphemism to avoid using the words Devil or hell . Cain, according to the biblical book of Genesis, was the first murderer.
raise ˈCain/ˈhell(informal) complain or protest noisily and angrily, often as a way of getting something you want: He’ll raise hell if we don’t finish on time. ▶ ˈhell-raiser noun a violent and destructive person Cain was the first murderer in the Bible.
tv. to make a lot of trouble; to raise hell. Fred was really raising Cain about the whole matter.
raise Cain, to
To make a disturbance. This nineteenth-century Americanism alludes to the wicked biblical Cain, who killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:5). Raising Cain is equivalent to “raising the devil.” The earliest appearances of this expression in print date from the 1840s, but by the second half of the nineteenth century it had crossed the Atlantic and was used by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island (“I’m a man that has lived rough, and I’ll raise Cain”) and Rudyard Kipling in The Ballad of the Bolivar (“Seven men from all the world back to Docks again, / Rolling down the Ratcliffe Road, drunk and raising Cain”). A more straightforward synonym is to raise hell, an Americanism that dates from the late 1800s and gave rise to the slogan, “Kansas should raise less corn and more hell.”Yet another Americanism from the same period is to raise a ruckus, the noun ruckus possibly derived from rumpus.
See also: raise