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[red-han-did] /ˈrɛdˈhæn dɪd/
adjective, adverb
in the very act of a crime, wrongdoing, etc., or in possession of self-incriminating evidence:
They caught him red-handed dipping into the till.
Origin of red-handed
First recorded in 1810-20
Related forms
red-handedness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for red-handed
Historical Examples
  • You will call your men off his track—until you catch him red-handed?

    The Law-Breakers Ridgwell Cullum
  • This red-handed wretch will try to marry some aristocratic heiress.

    Oswald Langdon Carson Jay Lee
  • After that, she would catch her father suddenly, and bring him back, red-handed.

    The Brentons Anna Chapin Ray
  • "They will shoot him red-handed if they catch him," I answered confidently.

    Hilda Wade Grant Allen
  • Will you believe the testimony of the defendant or this red-handed Pinkerton?

    Homestead Arthur G. Burgoyne
  • Why do you keep trying to explain, when I caught you red-handed?

  • They were hungry and thirsty, a rough, red-handed mob of seamen.

    The Last Entry William Clark Russell
  • Doubtless Clifford was as red-handed a sinner as any of the barons, but probably no worse.

    Yorkshire Battles Edward Lamplough
  • Felim, the son of Charles the red-handed, led an array into Connaught.

  • We must watch and wait, and the next time catch him red-handed.

British Dictionary definitions for red-handed


(postpositive) in the act of committing a crime or doing something wrong or shameful (esp in the phrase catch red-handed)
Derived Forms
red-handedly, adverb
red-handedness, noun
Word Origin
C19 (earlier, C15 red hand)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for red-handed

1781, earlier red-hand (early 15c.), originally in Scottish legal writing, from red (adj.1) + hand (n.), presumably from the image of a murderer caught in the act, with blood-stained hands.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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