eye for an eye, an

Punishment in which the offender suffers what the victim has suffered, exact retribution, as in Joe believed in an eye for an eye; stealing his client would have to be avenged. This idiom is a quotation from the Bible, which has “Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Deuteronomy 19:21); the idea is contradicted in the New Testament (see turn the other cheek).

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