English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

CIA takes rap for embassy attack.

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

From Merriam-Webster:

the responsibility for or adverse consequences of an action: refused to take the rap.

The CIA took the responsibility for allowing the embassy attack.

share|improve this answer
Is it a metaphor? – lovespring Feb 12 '11 at 15:07

While I agree with @Kosmonaut, I think it may be useful to advert to the derivation of this word. From Etymonline.com:

"quick, light blow," mid-14c., native or borrowed from a Scandinavian source (cf. Dan. rap, Swed. rapp "light blow"); either way probably of imitative origin (cf. slap, clap). The verb is attested from late 14c. Slang noun meaning "rebuke, blame, responsibility" is from 1777; specific meaning "criminal indictment" (cf. rap sheet, 1960) is from 1903. To rap (someone's) knuckles "give light punishment" is from 1749.

So this stems from the meaning of rap as "a blow" (in the sense of striking someone with the hand) and acquired the additional meaning of "punishment" along the way and then added to that a sense of criminal culpability.

share|improve this answer
thank you very much, Robusto. – lovespring Feb 13 '11 at 2:34
@lovespring: Aww, you teased me. – Robusto Feb 13 '11 at 2:40
tease means 'Make fun of or attempt to provoke (a person or animal) in a playful way'. Trust me, in my whole life till now, I never use this words. Is it a joke ? :) – lovespring Feb 13 '11 at 4:57
@lovespring: I happened to log on and find you had accepted my answer. Ten seconds when I went to the questions I noticed you had taken the acceptance away from me and given it to someone else. So in the sense I used it, it means "to tempt someone with something without actually providing that thing." (In short, I was just joking with you.) – Robusto Feb 13 '11 at 16:05
It's hard to choose, first right v.s. best in detail. I choose the former, and many people have up-vote you. – lovespring Feb 19 '11 at 1:39

The NOAD reports that to take the rap is used in informal contexts for be punished or blamed, especially for something that is not one's fault or for which others are equally responsible.

Notice also that rap is an informal word used for criminal charge, or a person or thing's reputation.

share|improve this answer

Literally, rap means knock! A reprimand or rebuke now considered old-fashioned by some, a knock on the head—quick, instant and effective—was the favorite of parents and disciplinarians who did not shy away from corporal punishment.

share|improve this answer

A rap on the knuckles is a commonly used idiom, synonymous with a slap on the wrist.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.