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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

She had cased the base before—apparently in the belief that a FEMA concentration camp was being built there.
Summer of Hate John Avlon August 12, 2009

Burglars will, he said, nearly always have cased a house before breaking in.
How to Stay Liberal After You Get Robbed Kelly Williams Brown June 28, 2014

Historical Examples

From neck to thigh his lean body was cased in black link mail, and under that a tunic of leather, dyed black.
Black Amazon of Mars Leigh Brackett

It was exquisitely polished, and cased in the interior with silver.
Vivian Grey Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

Then they cased the whole stone in wood, to prevent its getting broken or injured on the way.
Rollo in Paris Jacob Abbott

And it must be cased in waterproof, to keep it from getting wet and heavy.
Boy Scouts Handbook Boy Scouts of America

Cylinders lagged with wood and cased with brass, or iron painted.
Illustrated Catalogue of Locomotives M. Baird, et. al..

The roofs of the keep are of copper, and its massive gates are cased in iron.
Travels in the Far East Ellen Mary Hayes Peck

Pages, venerably yellow, should not be cased in military morocco, but in sober brown russia.
The Book Lovers’ Anthology Various

For he was cased in the stiff hide, and could do nothing in defence.
The Dragon of Wantley Owen Wister

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
computer-aided software engineering
In addition to the idiom beginning with


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  • Case sensitivity

    case sensitivity text Whether a text matching operation distinguishes upper-case (capital) letters from lower case (is “case sensitive”) or not (“case insensitive”). Case in file names should be preserved (for readability) but ignored when matching (so the user doesn’t have to get it right). MS-DOS does not preserve case in file names, Unix preserves case […]

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    a collection of small projectiles in a case, to be fired from a cannon. Historical Examples On being discharged the projectile delivered the bullets in a shower somewhat after the fashion of case-shot. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 12, Slice 3 Various Well steered; edge toward him, and when you fire bring your guns to […]

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