call names

Idioms & Phrases

call names

Verbally abuse someone, use offensive epithets, as in The teacher told the children to stop calling names. This idiom was first recorded in the late 1600s but Shakespeare used a similar expression earlier in Richard III (1:3): "That thou hadst called me all these bitter names."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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