rake over the coals

rake over the coals


  1. drag over the coals
  2. haul over the coals


  • to give someone a hard time for a mistake they supposedly did
  • to scold or be angry at someone for doing something wrong
  • to rebuke harshly

Example Sentences

  1. My classmate Lily forgot to do her math homework as she had a function to attend in her family. The teacher raked her over the coals for that.
  2. “You didn’t get her the present for her birthday? She is so going to drag you over the coals!”
  3. He raked me over the coals when he found out that I lied to him about Jonah. Thankfully, we cleared things up soon after.
  4. The scam was busted, and the people hauled the scam team over the coals for it. They’re sure regretting the moment they thought of the fraud.
  5. Jenny was raked over the coals for violating the traffic rules.
  6. It is not fair that Mathew gets raked over the coals every time something goes wrong in the school.
  7. The terrorists should be raked over the coals as hard as they could be for killing innocent people.


The actual year of origin and the first use of the phrase ‘haul someone over the coals’ is unknown. However, few sources say that this idiom came into use about a centuries-old practice in some parts of Europe, which involved raking heretics over coals. When someone suspected of going against the church’s preaching or practicing witchcraft, they were dragged over the hold coals. They had to survive this to be declared innocent.

The earliest printed record of the phrase can be traced back from 1565, in the practice of dragging or raking heretics over coals performed by the Catholic Church as a form of torture.

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

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R 1 Thought

1 Thought

Rake over the coals has a different meaning to haul over the coals. It means to bring up an incident from the past that is best left forgotten. It is usually used in the negative as in ‘Don’t rake over the coals.’ or Don’t rake over old coals.’

- Angela White October 3, 2019

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