an instance of the occurrence, existence, etc., of something:
Sailing in such a storm was a case of poor judgment.
the actual state of things:
That is not the case.
a question or problem of moral conduct; matter:
a case of conscience.
situation; circumstance; plight:
Mine is a sad case.
a person or thing whose plight or situation calls for attention:
This family is a hardship case.
a specific occurrence or matter requiring discussion, decision, or investigation, as by officials or law-enforcement authorities:
The police studied the case of the missing jewels.
a stated argument used to support a viewpoint:
He presented a strong case against the proposed law.
an instance of disease, injury, etc., requiring medical or surgical attention or treatment; individual affliction:
She had a severe case of chicken pox.
a medical or surgical patient.

a suit or action at law; cause.
a set of facts giving rise to a legal claim, or to a defense to a legal claim.


a category in the inflection of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives, noting the syntactic relation of these words to other words in the sentence, indicated by the form or the position of the words.
a set of such categories in a particular language.
the meaning of or the meaning typical of such a category.
such categories or their meanings collectively.

Informal. a peculiar or unusual person:
He’s a case.
get / be on someone’s case, Slang. to bother or nag someone; meddle in someone’s affairs:
Her brother is always on her case about getting married. Why do you keep getting on my case?
get off someone’s case, Slang. to stop bothering or criticizing someone or interfering in someone’s affairs:
I’ve had enough of your advice, so just get off my case.
have a case on, Slang. to be infatuated with:
He had a case on the girl next door.
in any case, regardless of circumstances; be that as it may; anyhow:
In any case, there won’t be any necessity for you to come along.
in case, if it should happen that; if:
In case I am late, don’t wait to start dinner.
in case of, in the event of; if there should be:
In case of an error in judgment, the group leader will be held responsible.
in no case, under no condition; never:
He should in no case be allowed to get up until he has completely recovered from his illness.
an often small or portable container for enclosing something, as for carrying or safekeeping; receptacle:
a jewel case.
a sheath or outer covering:
a knife case.
a box with its contents:
a case of ginger ale.
the amount contained in a box or other container:
There are a dozen bottles to a case.
a pair or couple; brace:
a case of pistols.
a surrounding frame or framework, as of a door.
Bookbinding. a completed book cover ready to be fitted to form the binding of a book.
Printing. a tray of wood, metal, or plastic, divided into compartments for holding types for the use of a compositor and usually arranged in a set of two, the upper (upper case) for capital letters and often auxiliary types, the lower (lower case) for small letters and often auxiliary types, now generally replaced by the California job case.
Compare news case.
a cavity in the skull of a sperm whale, containing an oil from which spermaceti is obtained.
Also called case card. Cards. the last card of a suit or denomination that remains after the other cards have been played:
a case heart; the case jack.
Faro. casebox.
Southeastern U.S. (chiefly South Carolina) . a coin of a particular denomination, as opposed to the same amount in change:
a case quarter.
Metallurgy. the hard outer part of a piece of casehardened steel.
to put or enclose in a case; cover with a case.
Slang. to examine or survey (a house, bank, etc.) in planning a crime (sometimes followed by out):
They cased the joint and decided to pull the job on Sunday.
to fuse a layer of glass onto (glass of a contrasting color or of different properties).
to cover (a surface of a wall, well, shaft, etc.) with a facing or lining; revet.
Bookbinding. to bind (a book) in a case.
Cards Slang.

to arrange (cards or a pack of cards) in a dishonest manner.
to remember the quantity, suit, or denomination of (the cards played).

Contemporary Examples

It should not have to be that way, and certainly not in the case of Thanksgiving.
The Real Story Behind Thanksgiving Nick Bunker November 23, 2010

Neither he nor any of his family will talk on the record or discuss the case.
Inside D.C.’s Socialite Murder Sandra McElwaine September 7, 2011

She said he reviewed the ethical guidelines after the Center asked about the case and is “very comfortable” with his conduct.
Law-Breaking Judges Took Cases That Could Make Them Even Richer Reity O’Brien, Kytja Weir, Chris Young, Center for Public Integrity April 27, 2014

There are 40-plus FBI agents working the Michael Brown case.
Why Won’t Obama Go to Ferguson? Stuart Stevens August 18, 2014

In case you missed it, Sen. Lindsey Graham already proposed putting U.S. boots on the ground to secure Syrian chemical weapons.
So, You Want Another War? Leslie H. Gelb March 19, 2013

Historical Examples

For my own part, I thought pride in his case an improper subject for raillery.
Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson

The husband in my case was to be an inconvenience, but doubtless an amusing one.
The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson

Caroline herself had engaged his services in the case, and he was faithful.
Cap’n Warren’s Wards Joseph C. Lincoln

The true remedy is not to be sought in that direction in the one case any more than the other.
‘Tis Sixty Years Since Charles Francis Adams

What possible, probable story can man invent to cover a case so cruel as this?
A War-Time Wooing Charles King

a single instance, occurrence, or example of something
an instance of disease, injury, hardship, etc
a question or matter for discussion: the case before the committee
a specific condition or state of affairs; situation
a set of arguments supporting a particular action, cause, etc

a person attended or served by a doctor, social worker, solicitor, etc; patient or client
(as modifier): a case study

an action or suit at law or something that forms sufficient grounds for bringing an action: he has a good case
the evidence offered in court to support a claim


a set of grammatical categories of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives, marked by inflection in some languages, indicating the relation of the noun, adjective, or pronoun to other words in the sentence
any one of these categories: the nominative case

(informal) a person in or regarded as being in a specified condition: the accident victim was a hospital case, he’s a mental case
(informal) a person of a specified character (esp in the phrase a hard case)
(informal) an odd person; eccentric
(US, informal) love or infatuation
short for case shot See canister (sense 2b)
as the case may be, according to the circumstances
(adverb) in any case, no matter what; anyhow: we will go in any case
(adverb) in case

in order to allow for eventualities
(as conjunction) in order to allow for the possibility that: take your coat in case it rains
(US) if

(preposition) in case of, in the event of
(adverb) in no case, under no circumstances: in no case should you fight back

a container, such as a box or chest
(in combination): suitcase, briefcase

an outer cover or sheath, esp for a watch
a receptacle and its contents: a case of ammunition
a pair or brace, esp of pistols
(architect) another word for casing (sense 3)
a completed cover ready to be fastened to a book to form its binding
(printing) a tray divided into many compartments in which a compositor keeps individual metal types of a particular size and style. Cases were originally used in pairs, one (the upper case) for capitals, the other (the lower case) for small letters See also upper case, lower case
(metallurgy) the surface of a piece of steel that has been case-hardened
verb (transitive)
to put into or cover with a case: to case the machinery
(slang) to inspect carefully (esp a place to be robbed)

early 13c., “what befalls one; state of affairs,” from Old French cas “an event, happening, situation, quarrel, trial,” from Latin casus “a chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, mishap,” literally “a falling,” from cas-, past participle stem of cadere “to fall, sink, settle down, decline, perish” (used widely: of the setting of heavenly bodies, the fall of Troy, suicides), from PIE root *kad- “to lay out, fall or make fall, yield, break up” (cf. Sanskrit sad- “to fall down,” Armenian chacnum “to fall, become low,” perhaps also Middle Irish casar “hail, lightning”). The notion being “that which falls” as “that which happens” (cf. befall).

Meaning “instance, example” is from c.1300. Meaning “actual state of affairs” is from c.1400. Given widespread extended and transferred senses in English in law (16c.), medicine (18c.), etc.; the grammatical sense (late 14c.) was in Latin. U.S. slang meaning “person” is from 1848. In case “in the event” is recorded from mid-14c. Case history is from 1879, originally medical; case study “study of a particular case” is from 1879, originally legal.

“receptacle,” early 14c., from Anglo-French and Old North French casse (Old French chasse “case, reliquary;” Modern French châsse), from Latin capsa “box, repository” (especially for books), from capere “to take, hold” (see capable).

Meaning “outer protective covering” is from late 14c. Also used from 1660s with a sense “frame” (e.g. staircase, casement). Artillery sense is from 1660s, from case-shot “small projectiles put in cases” (1620s). Its application in the printing trade (first recorded 1580s) to the two trays where compositors keep their types in separate compartments for easy access led to upper-case letter for a capital (1862) and lower-case for small letters.

“The cases, or receptacles, for the type, which are always in pairs, and termed the ‘upper’ and the ‘lower,’ are formed of two oblong wooden frames, divided into compartments or boxes of different dimensions, the upper case containing ninety-eight and the lower fifty-four. In the upper case are placed the capital, small capital, and accented letters, also figures, signs for reference to notes &c.; in the lower case the ordinary running letter, points for punctuation, spaces for separating the words, and quadrats for filling up the short lines.” [“The Literary Gazette,” Jan. 29, 1859]


“enclose in a case,” 1570s, from case (n.2). Related: Cased; casing. Meaning “examine, inspect” (usually prior to robbing) is from 1915, American English slang, perhaps from the notion of giving a place a look on all sides (cf. technical case (v.) “cover the outside of a building with a different material,” 1707).

case (kās)
An occurrence of a disease or disorder.

A grammatical category indicating whether nouns and pronouns are functioning as the subject of a sentence (nominative case) or the object of a sentence (objective case), or are indicating possession (possessive case). He is in the nominative case, him is in the objective case, and his is in the possessive case. In a language such as English, nouns do not change their form in the nominative or objective case. Only pronouns do. Thus, ball stays the same in both “the ball is thrown,” where it is the subject, and in “Harry threw the ball,” where it is the object.


An odd, eccentric person; card, character (1833+)
: Lefty gave the bank a case


(also case out) To inspect, scrutinize, esp with a view to robbery or burglary •Keep the cases in the sense ”keep close watch” is attested fr 1856, with reference to faro: I’ve cased this one and it’s ripe (1914+ Underworld)

Related Terms

butterfly case, couch case, drop case, get down to cases, get off someone’s case, get on someone’s case, have a case of the dumb-ass, have a case on someone, headcase, make a federal case out of something, nutball, off someone’s case, on someone’s case, worst-case scenario

1. Computer Aided Software Engineering.
2. Common Application Service Element.

1. switch statement.
2. Whether a character is a capital letter (“upper case” – ABC..Z) or a small letter (“lower case” – abc..z).
The term case comes from the printing trade when the use of moving type was invented in the early Middle Ages (Caxton or Gutenberg?) and the letters for each font were stored in a box with two sections (or “cases”), the upper case was for the capital letters and the lower case was for the small letters. The Oxford Universal Dictionary of Historical Principles (Feb 1993, reprinted 1952) indicates that this usage of “case” (as the box or frame used by a compositor in the printing trade) was first used in 1588.
computer-aided software engineering
In addition to the idiom beginning with


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