verb (used with object), rapped, rap·ping.

verb (used without object), rapped, rap·ping.



    beat the rap, Slang. to succeed in evading the penalty for a crime; be acquitted: The defendant calmly insisted that he would beat the rap.
    take the rap, Slang. to take the blame and punishment for a crime committed by another: He took the rap for the burglary.

Origin of rap

1300–50; 1960–65 for def 8; Middle English rappen (v.), rap(p)e (noun); akin to Swedish rappa to beat, drub, German rappeln to rattle; senses “to talk,” “conversation, talk” perhaps of distinct orig., though the hypothesis that it is a shortening of repartee is questionable
Can be confusedrap wraprapped rapt wrapped
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for beat the rap



verb raps, rapping or rapped

to strike (a fist, stick, etc) against (something) with a sharp quick blow; knockhe rapped at the door
(intr) to make a sharp loud sound, esp by knocking
(tr) to rebuke or criticize sharply
(tr foll by out) to put (forth) in sharp rapid speech; utter in an abrupt fashionto rap out orders
(intr) slang to talk, esp volubly
(intr) to perform a rhythmic monologue with a musical backing
rap over the knuckles to reprimand


a sharp quick blow or the sound produced by such a blow
a sharp rebuke or criticism
slang voluble talk; chatterstop your rap
  1. a fast, rhythmic monologue over a prerecorded instrumental track
  2. (as modifier)rap music
slang a legal charge or case
beat the rap US and Canadian slang to escape punishment or be acquitted of a crime
take the rap slang to suffer the consequences of a mistake, misdeed, or crime, whether guilty or not
Derived Formsrapping, noun

Word Origin for rap

C14: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Swedish rappa to beat




(used with a negative) the least amount (esp in the phrase not to care a rap)

Word Origin for rap

C18: probably from ropaire counterfeit coin formerly current in Ireland



verb, noun

Australian informal a variant spelling of wrap (def. 8), wrap (def. 14)
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

Word Origin and History for beat the rap



c.1300, "a quick, light blow, stroke," also "a fart" (late 15c.), native or borrowed from a Scandinavian source (cf. Danish rap, Swedish rapp "light blow"); either way probably of imitative origin (cf. slap, clap).

Slang meaning "rebuke, blame, responsibility" is from 1777; specific meaning "criminal indictment" (cf. rap sheet, 1960) is from 1903. To beat the rap is from 1927. Meaning "music with improvised words" first in New York City slang, 1979 (see rap (v.2)).



mid-14c., "strike, smite, knock," from rap (n.). Related: Rapped; rapping. To rap (someone's) knuckles "give light punishment" is from 1749. Related: Rapped; rapping.



"talk informally, chat," 1929, popularized c.1965 in Black English, possibly first in Caribbean English and from British slang meaning "say, utter" (1879), originally "to utter a sudden oath" (1540s), ultimately from rap (n.). As a noun in this sense from 1898. Meaning "to perform rap music" is recorded by 1979. Related: Rapped; rapping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for beat the rap


A form of pop music characterized by spoken or chanted rhymed lyrics, with a syncopated, repetitive accompaniment. Rap music originated in the second half of the twentieth century in black urban communities. (See also hip-hop.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with beat the rap

beat the rap

Escape punishment; win acquittal. For example, The youngsters were caught shoplifting, but somehow they were able to beat the rap. The rap in this idiom means “the legal charge against one.” [Slang; 1920s]


In addition to the idiom beginning with rap

  • rap someone's knuckles

also see:

  • beat the rap
  • bum rap
  • not give a damn (rap)
  • take the rap
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.