catch red-handed

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.

Nearby words

  1. catch one's breath,
  2. catch out,
  3. catch phrase,
  4. catch pit,
  5. catch points,
  6. catch sight of,
  7. catch some rays,
  8. catch some z's,
  9. catch someone's eye,
  10. catch stitch

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