Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adverb & adjective In the act of committing something wrong.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • With red or bloody hands; hence, in the very act, as if with red or bloody hands: said originally of a person taken in the act of homicide, but extended figuratively to one caught in the perpetration of any crime: generally in the phrase to be taken red-handed.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective With clear evidence of guilt.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective in the act of committing a crime or other reprehensible act
  • adverb doing something reprehensible or showing clear evidence of having done something reprehensible

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Earlier red-hand, with the hands red (from blood).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

To be taken with red hand in ancient times was to be caught in the act, like a murderer with his hands red with his victim's blood. The use of red hand in this sense goes back to 15th-century Scotland and Scottish law. Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819) contains the first recorded use of taken red-handed for someone apprehended in the act of committing a crime. The expression subsequently became more common as caught red-handed.

Examples

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