See more synonyms for red-handed on
adjective, adverb
  1. in the very act of a crime, wrongdoing, etc., or in possession of self-incriminating evidence: They caught him red-handed dipping into the till.

Origin of red-handed

First recorded in 1810–20
Related formsred-hand·ed·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for red-handed

guilty, openly, blatantly, caught

Examples from the Web for red-handed

Historical Examples of red-handed

  • You will call your men off his track—until you catch him red-handed?

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • This red-handed wretch will try to marry some aristocratic heiress.

    Oswald Langdon

    Carson Jay Lee

  • After that, she would catch her father suddenly, and bring him back, red-handed.

    The Brentons

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • "They will shoot him red-handed if they catch him," I answered confidently.

    Hilda Wade

    Grant Allen

  • Will you believe the testimony of the defendant or this red-handed Pinkerton?


    Arthur G. Burgoyne

British Dictionary definitions for red-handed


  1. (postpositive) in the act of committing a crime or doing something wrong or shameful (esp in the phrase catch red-handed)
Derived Formsred-handedly, adverbred-handedness, noun

Word Origin for red-handed

C19 (earlier, C15 red hand)
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 red-handed

1781, earlier red-hand (early 15c.), originally in Scottish legal writing, from red (adj.1) + hand (n.), presumably from the image of a murderer caught in the act, with blood-stained hands.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper