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

How did the phrase/idiom for crying out loud come about? I don't understand what is "for" doing here. For X means that X is a requirement that has to be fulfilled. Why don't you do it *for X* means You should do it in order to fulfill condition X. In that sense, crying out doesn't make sense to me. Also is that a cry like cry in pain or cry in anger?

I have read http://ezinearticles.com/?For-Crying-Out-Loud!-What-is-the-Origin-of-This-Strange-Expression?&id=4533931 but it doesn't answer the question.

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The article does answer the question -- this is a minced oath, an oath which has had its pronunciation changed so it no longer evokes a taboo term which might give offense (and at one time would have incurred serious criminal charges).

The cry syllable is obviously a trimmed-down Christ, as the author says. However, I find his little story about the crying baby highly implausible. To my ear it is clearly a minced version of for Christ our Lord['s sake].

share|improve this answer
I get it now. Is it like cockney rhyming slang? – user13107 Mar 7 '14 at 3:48
@user13107 Very distantly related, but differently motivated. – StoneyB Mar 7 '14 at 4:22

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.