Origin of cain

Middle English (Scots) cane < Scots Gaelic; compare Old Irish cáin statute, law, rent


  1. the first son of Adam and Eve, who murdered his brother Abel. Gen. 4.
  2. a murderer.
  1. raise Cain, Slang.
    1. become angry or violent: He'll raise Cain when he finds out I lost his watch.
    2. to behave in a boisterous manner; cause a disturbance: The students raised Cain while the teacher was out.
Related formsCain·ism, nounCain·it·ic [key-nit-ik] /keɪˈnɪt ɪk/, adjective


  1. James M.,1892–1977, U.S. novelist. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cain

Contemporary Examples of cain

Historical Examples of cain

  • When Cain wished to slay his brother, he was at no loss for a weapon.

  • Cain (gen. Caines, 107): descended from him are Grendel and his kin, 107, 1262 ff.



  • He gave Cain a long lifetime in which to repent of his sins.

    Henry Dunbar

    M. E. Braddon

  • Even thus did Cain cease to be his brother's keeper, and so slew him.

    Salted With Fire

    George MacDonald

  • On kin of Cain was the killing avenged by sovran God for slaughtered Abel.



British Dictionary definitions for cain



  1. history (in Scotland and Ireland) payment in kind, usually farm produce paid as rent

Word Origin for cain

C12: from Scottish Gaelic cāin rent, perhaps ultimately from Late Latin canōn tribute (see canon); compare Middle Irish cāin law


  1. the first son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1–16)
  2. raise Cain
    1. to cause a commotion
    2. to react or protest heatedly
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 cain


elder son of Adam and Eve, from Hebrew Qayin, literally "created one," also "smith," from Semitic stem q-y-n "to form, to fashion." To raise Cain is first recorded 1840. Surnames McCain, McCann, etc., are a contraction of Irish Mac Cathan "son of Cathan," from Celtic cathan, literally "warrior," from cath "battle."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with cain


see raise Cain.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.