Have you ever gotten home from school and really needed an after-school snack to give you enough energy to do your homework? You know your parents would want you to have a piece of fruit, but the chocolate chip cookies in the cookie jar are too tempting.

Just as you sneak your hand into the cookie jar to grab hold of a delicious cookie, you hear the voice behind you asking you what you’re doing. Bam! You were caught in the act of sneaking the cookie. In fact, many people would say you were caught red-handed.

But what does that mean exactly? If you look at your hand, it might have cookie crumbs or pieces of chocolate on it, but it’s not red! Why would someone say you were caught red-handed then?

To be caught red-handed means that you were caught in the act of doing something wrong, with clear evidence for all to see. Evidence is proof that can be shown to establish that you committed the wrong deed.

For example, let’s say you grabbed a cookie and ate it before anyone saw you. If your parents knew there were 12 cookies in the jar to start with and there are now only 11 cookies in the jar, they might have good reason to suspect you ate a cookie. However, without seeing you take and eat the cookie, they would have no evidence to rely upon to support their suspicion. Anyone could have taken that cookie.

When you’re caught in the act of taking the cookie, however, the evidence is there for all to see. The cookie is in your hand and your hand is in the jar. Case closed! You’re guilty.

The phrase “caught red-handed” reflects this idea of being caught in the act with evidence for all to see. Although its origins aren’t completely clear, it appears to have developed in the 1400s in Scotland as a reference to poachers.

If you killed an animal on another person’s land and were caught with the blood of that animal on your hands, it was clear you were guilty and had been caught “red-handed.” Over time, the phrase became popular in the general context of being caught in the act of wrongdoing. It was popularized for the first time in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe in 1819.

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    • Thanks for sharing that you’ve never been caught “red-handed” before, Rahul! We appreciate you being the first Wonder Friend to visit today’s Wonder and leave us a comment! Have a GREAT day! :-)

  1. I’ve been caught red handed before, it is not fun. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about holes in one, golf putt putt, or glow in the dark putt putt/golf.

  2. I’ve been caught red-handed. And it is never fun. You always feel guilty.
    I think tomorrow’s Wonder is about pot holes.
    I’ve read a book called Holes! It’s REALLY good!!!!

  3. We think tomorrow’s wonder of the day might be about a black hole.

    We really liked the video today, too! :) It was cute.

    • Hi there, Miss Kirsten’s Kindergarten GT Class! We really appreciate your comment today and are glad you liked today’s Wonder video! We’re not sure what tomorrow’s Wonder will be, but we think black holes would be AWESOME to WONDER about! Here is another FUN Wonder about space for you guys:

      Wonder #19 – What Would You Pack For a Trip To Outer Space? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/spaceship-earth/. :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Mrs. Foster’s 2nd Grade! We think many Wonder Friends have been caught doing something they knew they shouldn’t be doing. Learning lessons about doing the right thing is all part of growing up, don’t you guys agree? The important thing to remember is to always try your best to make good choices and do what’s right (then we won’t have to worry about getting caught red-handed)! Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder and leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

  4. I hope tomorrow’s wonder is about pot holes. I have actually been caught red-handed before, punching my sister! We can almost never get along. :)

    • Sometimes siblings have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye because they care about each other so much, Tom! We bet that’s the case with you and your sister! Thanks for sharing that you have been caught red-handed and THANKS for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us today! :-)

  5. I was wondering how you find all of your videos for wonderopolis? Because I would really like to enter searches and see videos that you choose. I would also like to know if you have any youtube videos.

    • Happy Thursday, AwesomeMaster330! We appreciate the great comments you are leaving around Wonderopolis for us today! We noticed that you also asked this same question in a comment for Wonder #224 – What Is Infinity? We left you a reply there, but we wanted to share it with you here, too, in case you checked for a reply on this Wonder of the Day® instead! Here’s what we said in our other reply:

      “We search high and low for the best video to go along with each Wonder of the Day®! Sometimes we find the best video on YouTube, but sometimes it might be found on Vimeo or another video library website. We never know where we’ll find the perfect video for a Wonder of the Day®! :-)

      We’re working on new ways to be able to help our Wonder Friends (like YOU!) search for videos, links and activities here on Wonderopolis, so we appreciate you letting us know you’d like to search for Wonder videos. Thanks for being a GREAT Wonder Friend!” :-)

  6. Wonderopolis, please keep making new posts daily, because I get bored all day without you. If you stop I will be bored out of my skull.

    • Thanks for letting us know how much exploring Wonderopolis means to you, Rod! We really appreciate your enthusiasm for WONDER! :-)

    • Uh, oh! We hope that classmate didn’t get in too much trouble, Ms. Bayko’s class! At least he or she got caught “red-handed” eating something healthy! Thanks for sharing this comment with us today! We see you guys shared another one with us, too…we can’t wait to see what you other WONDERful things guys have to say! :-)

  7. One of our students got caught red handed eating chocolate!

    Another student was caught red handed sneaking fudge from the fridge.

    Someone else was caught red handed trying to sneak her cousin’s drink!

    One little boy was caught red handed sneaking his dad’s pizza!

    • That’s a LOT of red-handed catching, Ms. Bayko’s class! We appreciate you guys sharing your experiences with everyone here in Wonderopolis…we hope you had an AWESOME time exploring today’s Wonder with us! :-)

    • That’s a GREAT guess for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®, Mrs. Dillon’s 3rd grade! Thanks for sharing it! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis in the morning to see if we will all be WONDERing about MOLES! :-)

  8. ALL of us have been caught red-handed! Some of us tried to sneak food, others wrote on the walls, and Mr. Draper sneaks drinks from the milk jug. We are hoping tomorrow’s wonder is about Black Holes! We think they are amazing and we have a class mascot of Albert Einstein. Have a Wonderful day? Have you ever been caught red-handed and if so, what happened?

    • Hi there, Mr. Draper’s Class! We can always count on you guys for an OUTSTANDING comment! Thanks for leaving us another one today! We’re not sure what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, but we have had some GREAT guesses from our Wonder Friends (including you guys!) today! There are LOTS of people who live and work here in Wonderopolis, so we’re SURE there are a few of us (wink, wink) who have been caught red-handed once or twice in our lives. We think it was GREAT that you guys shared some ways YOU have been caught red-handed, too! :-)

    • That’s SUPER advice to avoid getting caught red-handed, Amos! Thanks so much for reminding us to do the right thing and THANKS for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Happy Thursday, Caelah! We hope you enjoyed exploring today’s Wonder! It’s great to hear from you! :-)

    • We’re sure some of our Wonder Friends here in Wonderopolis may have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar when they were younger, JK, but we always try to think before we take! That way, we remind ourselves to do the right thing! :-)

    • Hello, Tessa! Thanks for sharing your experience with getting caught red-handed! We appreciate your comment and hope you had a GREAT time hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  9. I have been caught red-handed only twice in my life, I am 11. It was for sneaking some Easter candy and for sneaking Halloween candy.
    I think both times the candy was a Reese’s peanut butter cup, even though my favorite candy is Laffy Taffy. I have successfully gotten candy sssooooooooooooooooooooo many times. When I was young, I used to sneak downstairs and re-hide all the eggs on Easter morning. This was for 2 reasons. 1. I would know where all the eggs were. 2. The eggs were too easy to find. Mainly for the second reason.

    You guys rule + my b -day party is Tomorrow!

    • We hope you have the BEST birthday party ever, Adam! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and leaving us this WONDERful comment! We thought it was interesting to learn about the times you got caught red-handed and what your favorite candy is! Thanks for sharing a little bit about yourself with your Wonder Friends today!

      P.S. We hope the Easter Bunny isn’t visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

  10. This is a cute video. If I were a teacher I would do that with my class, but I would do it with a real cookie. And I have been caught red handed when I did mischief and stole stuff from my brother and sisters and made bad potions for them with my friend. But I got grounded for that day and had to stay in my room. And it was on pizza night. :-( I think the Friday May 11 wonder will be about black holes!

    • Hi, Ally! Thank you for sharing your experience with getting caught red-handed. We appreciate hearing what you would do if you were a teacher, too! We like your guess for the next Wonder of the Day®…we’ll have to check tomorrow to see if your guess is correct! :-)

    • That’s a SUPER guess about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®, “Wonder!” We can’t wait to see what we will all be WONDERing about next! Thanks for stopping by to learn some cool new things with us today! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing that you have never been caught red-handed, John! We appreciate you letting us know that, and we hope you have a GREAT weekend! :-)

    • We’re so glad you liked this Wonder of the Day®, Jelin! Thanks so much for letting us know you thought it was cool and also for sharing that you have been caught red-handed before. We appreciate your comment! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience with being caught red-handed, Rob! We hope you had a GREAT time in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Uh, oh, EP! We hope you were safe out there! We all have to learn life lessons about doing the right thing. Getting caught red-handed helps us remember to make good choices next time! :-)

  11. I have been caught red handed many of times!!! Now me and brother know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it so that we don’t get caught red handed anymore.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®, Kaitlyne! We’re glad you and your brother are making good decisions about doing the right things so you don’t ever have to worry about being caught red-handed! :-)

    • We love your literal interpretation, Wonder Friend Tyler! Thanks for making us smile! Some of your jokes remind us of the Amelia Bedelia books… have you ever read them? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Have you ever been caught red-handed?
  • What is evidence?
  • Can you write a persuasive letter?


Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Have you ever been caught red-handed sneaking a forbidden snack? If you have, you probably felt embarrassed for failing to ask permission first.

Is there something that you’ve been thinking you’d like to have lately? It could be a snack or a new bike or even a laptop. Whatever it is, seek permission from your parents by writing them a persuasive letter.

In a persuasive letter, you set forth what you want and then provide supporting details and arguments that attempt to convince the reader to agree with you. In this case, the reader is a parent. What can you say to convince your parents that you deserve what you seek?

Of course, the most persuasive letters anticipate possible objections and try to rebut them in advance. For example, if your parents would likely object to a new laptop because of how much it costs, you might want to address that issue upfront. Perhaps you could do extra chores or find a way to help raise the money to pay for what you want.

We wish you luck in your persuasive efforts! If you’d like to share your persuasive letter with your Wonder Friends, post it on Facebook. We can’t wait to read what you write!

Still Wondering

Internet criminals might be hard to catch red-handed. Check out Thinkfinity’s Staying Safe and Secure in a Digital World video to learn more about how to avoid exposure to digital threats like computer viruses, data and identity theft and hacking.


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We think tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is going to be a HOLE lot of fun!

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