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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for raise cain


  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



  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
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 raise 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

raise cain in Culture

raise Cain

To create a disturbance: “Alan and his buddies were always raising Cain over at the frat house.”

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 raise cain

raise Cain

Also, raise hell or the devil. Behave in a rowdy or disruptive way, as in He said he'd raise Cain if they wouldn't give him a refund, or The gang was out to raise hell that night, or The wind raised the devil with our picnic. The first term alludes to the son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother, Abel. It was first recorded in the St. Louis Daily Pennant (May 2, 1840): “Why have we every reason to believe that Adam and Eve were both rowdies? Because ... they both raised Cain.”. This statement makes a pun on raise, meaning “bring up” or “nurturing.” The two variants, alluding to bringing hell or the devil up to this world, are older, the first from about 1700, the second from about 1800.


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.