Raked over the coals: Meaning, synonyms & origin + 9 example sentences

What does “Raked over the coals” mean?

The expression “Raked over the coals” means to scold, rebuke, or get angry at someone for either a mistake they committed or without any reason. Another meaning suggests recalling/talking about the past, that you should have forgotten/disregarded (especially painful/hurtful moments and memories).

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9 examples of how to use “Raked over the coals” in a sentence

  • It was rather cruel of Aleena to rake her child over the coals just for missing school. 
  • I will advise you to complete your homework in time if you don’t want to be raked over the coals by Sir Arnold. 
  • As far as I can remember, father always used to rake us over the coals for getting up late. 
  • The poor boy gets raked over the coals daily; I feel bad for him.
  • “Why is it that the eldest child is always the one who gets raked over the coals for a mistake younger commit?!”, cried Margaret.
  • You better keep your mouth shut, or I’ll make sure to rake you over the coals.
  • Can you not rake me over the coals for something I am not responsible for?
  • “Why are you blaming me? You can’t expect anything good from the person you rake over the coals daily, now can you?”, Sara said bitterly.
  • You should not let your past rake you over the coals for this long, or it might not let you move forward.

The origin of “Raked over the coals”

The origin of this expression, “raked over the coals”, goes back to the early 16th century Christian practices. The 16th and 17th century England (in the early Renaissance) was marked by the shift from religion, particularly from the Roman Catholic Church, to the worldly life. Hence, many people began questioning the Church and religion, and started practicing religious heresy. This outraged the religious sages, and thus as a punishment, the alleged heretics were raked/hauled over the burning coals. If the person survived, he was pardoned and was proven innocent. Otherwise, the poor person would die on the hot red burning coals, under this deadly torment. In a nutshell, the history dates back to the medieval practice of torture on the heretics, and the details of which can be found in several sixteenth-century church chronicles. Hence, there is this association with raking someone over the coals and giving someone a hard time, or severely rebuking/reprimanding a person.

Although the term has lost its severity in the subsequent ages, it is still linked to harsh treatment, and severe rebuking or reprimanding. The term first appeared in the writing in 1565:

“S. Augustine, that knewe best how to fetche an heretike ouer the coles.”

Later, the variant “haul over the coals” also became common, and the idiom gained popularity among the people.

Synonyms for “Raked over the coals”

Scold, rebuke, reprimand, nag, reproach, admonish, baste, bawl out, castigate, chastise, chew out, fulminate, bite back, flay, lash, upbraid, lambast, dress down, rant (at), chide, assail, revile, condemn, criticize, denounce, let fly, castigate, berate, tell off, offend, keelhaul, bollock [British slang], reproof, deride, disparage, deplore, censure, vituperate, trounce, thrash, slap down, objurgate, decry, reprobate.

Idioms related to “Raked over the coals”

  • Haul over the coals
  • Give some hell
  • Give a piece of one’s mind
  • Bite someone’s head off
  • Give a hard time
  • Call on the carpet
  • Foam at the mouth
  • Cut to the quick
  • Have someone’s guts for garters
  • Give someone a tongue-lashing
  • Fly off the handle
  • Bust someone’s chops
  • Tear a strip off someone
  • Blow a fuse
  • Lash out on someone
  • Jump down someone’s throat
  • Raise your voice
  • Throw the book at
  • Bang/knock/hit someone’s heads together
  • Flip one’s lid
  • Do a number on