Open and shut case

Open-and shut-case is an idiom. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom open-and-shut case, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

An open-and-shut case is a situation or dispute that is easily decided; the correct decision is without a doubt. The expression open-and-shut case is often used to describe a legal matter where the facts are indisputable; however, the term open-and-shut case can be used to mean any unarguable dispute. The term open and shut came into use in the 1840s in the United States to mean straightforward; the term open-and-shut case became popular beginning in the 1920s. Note that open-and-shut is hyphenated in this phrase, because it is an adjective that appears before a noun.


A new report on social media and racism presents an open-and-shut case that the online platforms are fueling the spread of antisemitism and helping stoke the hatred that is tearing our society apart. (Las Vegas Sun)

“Never, Sir,” he responded when asked whether he thought the Oaks was an open-and-shut case. (Jamaica Gleaner)

We actually see the clays there, and they can explain the radar observations, so at this point it feels like an open-and-shut case, he says. (Forbes)

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