Raise Cain

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Raise Cain is an American idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the term raise Cain, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To raise Cain means to cause a commotion, to create a disturbance, to make trouble. The Cain in the phrase raise Cain refers to a character in the Old Testament of the Bible. Cain was the son of Adam and Eve, and he murdered his brother Abel. In the story, both Cain and Abel bring an offering to God. God accepts Abel’s offering but rejects Cain’s offering. In a fit of jealousy, Cain murders Abel. The verb to raise as used in the idiom to raise Cain means to conjure the spirit of someone. Therefore, to raise Cain means to conjure up the murderous spirit of Cain, certainly a way to create a disturbance or make trouble. Note that the term Cain is capitalized, as it is a proper noun. Related phrases are raises Cain, raised Cain, raising Cain. The term raise Cain first appeared around 1840.


“I think we have a better chance to work with the owners of the property and maybe get their cooperation instead of just trying to get in and raise Cain with everybody,” Taylor said. (The Scottsbluff Star Herald)

They’re sure to raise Cain if the White House appears to be going soft on the Kremlin or casts doubt on America’s commitment to NATO, the transatlantic military alliance. (The Kiplinger Personal Finance Letter)

The mom flipped out and started raising cain — shouting wildly at the older woman inside the elevator before tossing her into the street, cops said. (The New York Post)