Rake over the coals and haul over the coals

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Rake over the coals and haul over the coals are idioms. We will examine the meaning of the terms rake over the coals and haul over the coals, the etymology of these expressions, and some examples of their use in sentences.

To rake someone over the coals or to haul someone over the coals means to reprimand them severely, to chastise them in an angry manner, using insult and shame in order to cut them to the quick. One may be raked over the coals or hauled over the coals for making a mistake or for perpetrating something intentionally. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative meaning of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. The terms rake over the coals and haul over the coals have ominous etymologies, as they refer to events that literally occurred. The terms are inspired by a certain torture that was applied to heretics in the Middle Ages, involving dragging the prisoner bodily over a bed of red-hot coals. An example from the mid-1500s: “S. Augustine, that knewe best how to fetche an heretike ouer the coles.”  Though the punishment was common in the Middle Ages, the idiom haul over the coals became popular in the 1800s, and the idiom rake over the coals became popular after. Synonyms of the phrasal verbs rake over the coals and haul over the coals that may be found in a thesaurus are: berate, dress-down, chastise. Related phrases involve the conjugation of the verb rake or the verb haul, as in rakes over the coals, raked over the coals, raking over the coals, hauls over the coals, hauled over the coals, hauling over the coals. The expression rake over the coals is more common in American English, while usage of the term haul over the coals is more common in British English. The phrase drag over the coals is occasionally seen, primarily in American English.


Samantha said her father’s big mistake was not giving an interview to the media, therefore allowing certain elements to “absolutely rake him over the coals” and falsely portray him. (The Daily Star)


If you know the person, see them often and will have to work with them on various projects for the next 20 years, then you are less likely to rake them over the coals. (Forbes Magazine)

And, of those people who want to continue the investigation and rake her over the coals for this indiscretion, how many have never used a personal e-mail account for a work e-mail, or a work e-mail account for a personal e-mail? (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

It is clear from watching Lucman’s show that he thought he could get Qavi to denounce the rebel model and notch up viewership, just as he had done unsuccessfully with actress Veena Malik after Pakistanis hauled her over the coals for going to “enemy” India to act in the Bigg Boss TV show alongside Indian celebrities and posing scantily clad for a magazine published in the neighboring nation. (Newsweek Pakistan)

But as Davis told The Telegraph this week ahead of the blockbuster Bellator 192 event, his ‘second father’, coach Antonio McKee would haul him over the coals. (The Telegraph)