elder son of Adam and Eve, the first murderer and the first fratricide, from Hebrew Qayin, literally "created one," also "smith," from Semitic stem q-y-n "to form, to fashion." Figurative use for "murderer, fratricide" is from late 14c. The Cainites were a 2c. heretical sect who revered Cain, Judas, and other wicked characters in Scripture.

To raise Cain "behave disruptively" is recorded from 1840, American English.

Why are Adam and Eve the oldest sugar planters? Because they were he first to raise Cain. [joke in The Monthly Traveller, Boston, July 1832, and elsewhere]

The surnames McCain, McCann, etc., are a contraction of Irish Mac Cathan "son of Cathan," from Celtic cathan, literally "warrior," from cath "battle."

updated on October 28, 2022