A case is a specific instance or example of something. Your teacher might say, "In your case, I think you should go right into the calculus class."

A case is one particular situation — and it's also a legal term for a court proceeding, and a medical term for the details of one specific patient. Another kind of case is a bag that holds or covers something, like a laptop case or a cellphone case. When case is a verb, it means "to scope out a location for burglarizing it later." These various meanings come from two Latin roots: casus, "chance or occasion," and capsa, "box."

Primary Meanings of case

an occurrence of something
a comprehensive term for any proceeding in a court of law whereby an individual seeks a legal remedy
the housing or outer covering of something
enclose in, or as if in, a case
a person requiring professional services
a specific size and style of type within a type family
nouns or pronouns or adjectives (often marked by inflection) related in some way to other words in a sentence
look over, usually with the intention to rob
Full Definitions of case

n an occurrence of something

“it was a case of bad judgment”
example, instance
humiliation, mortification
an instance in which you are caused to lose your prestige or self-respect
bit, piece
an instance of some kind
clip, time
an instance or single occasion for some event
Type of:
happening, natural event, occurrence, occurrent
an event that happens

n a specific state of mind that is temporary

“a case of the jitters”
Type of:
frame of mind, state of mind
a temporary psychological state

n the actual state of things

“that was not the case
Type of:
a piece of information about circumstances that exist or events that have occurred

n a special set of circumstances

“it may rain in which case the picnic will be canceled”
Type of:
a condition that accompanies or influences some event or activity

n a comprehensive term for any proceeding in a court of law whereby an individual seeks a legal remedy

causa, cause, lawsuit, suit
show 6 types...
hide 6 types...
civil suit
a lawsuit alleging violations of civil law by the defendant
class action, class-action suit
a lawsuit brought by a representative member of a large group of people on behalf of all members of the group
a suit brought against someone who has sued you
criminal suit
a lawsuit alleging violations of criminal law by the defendant
a hypothetical case that law students argue as an exercise
bastardy proceeding, paternity suit
a lawsuit filed to determine the father of a child born out of wedlock (and to provide for the support of the child once paternity is determined)
Type of:
legal proceeding, proceeding, proceedings
(law) the institution of a sequence of steps by which legal judgments are invoked

n a problem requiring investigation

“Perry Mason solved the case of the missing heir”
Type of:
a question raised for consideration or solution

n a statement of facts and reasons used to support an argument

“he stated his case clearly”
Type of:
argument, statement
a fact or assertion offered as evidence that something is true

n the housing or outer covering of something

“the clock has a walnut case
casing, shell
protective casing for something that resembles a leg
gear box, gear case, gearbox
the shell (metal casing) in which a train of gears is sealed
the tough metal shell casing for certain kinds of ammunition
Type of:
a protective cover designed to contain or support a mechanical component

n the enclosing frame around a door or window opening

Type of:
a structure supporting or containing something

n a glass container used to store and display items in a shop or museum or home

display case, showcase, vitrine
trophy case
a case in which to display trophies
Type of:
any object that can be used to hold things (especially a large metal boxlike object of standardized dimensions that can be loaded from one form of transport to another)

n an enveloping structure or covering enclosing an animal or plant organ or part

show 9 types...
hide 9 types...
outer sheath of the pupa of certain insects
a hard protective sheath (as secreted by certain protoctists, for example)
medullary sheath, myelin sheath
a layer of myelin encasing (and insulating) the axons of medullated nerve fibers
neurilemma, neurolemma
thin membranous sheath around a nerve fiber
outer membranous covering of some fruits or seeds
the husk of an ear of corn
dry outer covering of a fruit or seed or nut
cod, pod, seedcase
the vessel that contains the seeds of a plant (not the seeds themselves)
a modified leaf or leaflike part just below and protecting an inflorescence
Type of:
cover, covering, natural covering
a natural object that covers or envelops

n a portable container for carrying several objects

“the musicians left their instrument cases backstage”
show 30 types...
hide 30 types...
baggage, luggage
cases used to carry belongings when traveling
a case with a handle; for carrying papers or files or books
a small case for carrying business cards
cigarette case
a small flat case for holding cigarettes; can be carried in a purse or a pocket
compact, powder compact
a small cosmetics case with a mirror; to be carried in a woman's purse
dispatch box, dispatch case
case consisting of an oblong container (usually having a lock) for carrying dispatches or other valuables
glasses case
a case for carrying spectacles
gun case
a case for storing a gun
a case for containing a set of articles
letter case
case for carrying letters
a small ornamental case; usually contains a picture or a lock of hair and is worn on a necklace
a small case for holding pills
a large, flat, thin case for carrying loose papers or drawings or maps; usually leather
case for holding arrows
(card games) a case from which playing cards are dealt one at a time
small case into which an object fits
billfold, notecase, pocketbook, wallet
a pocket-size case for holding papers and paper money
watch case
the metal case in which the works of a watch are housed
writing desk
a portable case containing writing materials and having a writing surface
attache, attache case
a shallow and rectangular briefcase
bag, grip, suitcase, traveling bag, travelling bag
a portable rectangular container for carrying clothes
ditty bag
kit used by sailors and soldiers
dressing case
a small piece of luggage for carrying brushes and bottles and toilet articles while traveling
hand luggage
luggage that is light enough to be carried by hand
a round piece of luggage for carrying hats
a piece of luggage carried on top of a coach
record cover, record sleeve
a sleeve for storing a phonograph record
luggage consisting of a small case with a flat bottom and (usually) a shoulder strap
toilet kit, travel kit
a kit for carrying toilet articles while traveling
luggage consisting of a large strong case used when traveling or for storage
Type of:
any object that can be used to hold things (especially a large metal boxlike object of standardized dimensions that can be loaded from one form of transport to another)

n bed linen consisting of a cover for a pillow

pillow slip, pillowcase, slip
Type of:
bed linen
linen or cotton articles for a bed (as sheets and pillowcases)

n the quantity contained in a case

Type of:
the quantity that a container will hold

v enclose in, or as if in, a case

encase, incase
show 8 types...
hide 8 types...
arrange in a container
box, package
put into a box
put in a sack
put into a crate; as for protection
containerise, containerize
package in a container
put into a bag
bundle, bundle up, roll up
make into a bundle
fill by packing tightly
Type of:
close in, enclose, inclose, shut in
surround completely

n a person requiring professional services

“a typical case was the suburban housewife described by a marriage counselor”
show 14 types...
hide 14 types...
a person who seeks the advice of a lawyer
a person who requires medical care
a person whose case has been referred to a specialist or professional group
charity case, welfare case
a case for a welfare worker
a person with alexia
a person undergoing psychoanalysis
a person afflicted with arthritis
a person who has abnormally high blood pressure
a patient with imaginary symptoms and ailments
a person who has abnormally low blood pressure
index case
the earliest documented case of a disease that is included in an epidemiological study
inmate, inpatient
a patient who is residing in the hospital where he is being treated
a patient who does not reside in the hospital where he is being treated
a patient who has been vaccinated
Type of:
individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul
a human being

n a person who is subjected to experimental or other observational procedures; someone who is an object of investigation

“the cases that we studied were drawn from two different communities”
guinea pig, subject
Type of:
individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul
a human being

n a person of a specified kind (usually with many eccentricities)

“a mental case
character, eccentric, type
Type of:
adult, grownup
a fully developed person from maturity onward

n a specific size and style of type within a type family

face, font, fount, typeface
show 17 types...
hide 17 types...
unicameral script
a script with a single case
bicameral script
a script having two distinct cases
constant-width font, fixed-width font, monospaced font, typewriter font
a typeface is which each character is given the same width (as by a typewriter)
proportional font
any font whose different characters have different widths
cartridge font, font cartridge
any font that is contained in a cartridge that can be plugged into a computer printer
Gothic, black letter
a heavy typeface in use from 15th to 18th centuries
bold, bold face, boldface
a typeface with thick heavy lines
a typeface with letters slanting upward to the right
raster font, screen font
the font that is displayed on a computer screen
Helvetica, sans serif
a typeface in which characters have no serifs
Latin alphabet, Roman alphabet
the alphabet evolved by the ancient Romans which serves for writing most of the languages of western Europe
Hebraic alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew script
a Semitic alphabet used since the 5th century BC for writing the Hebrew language (and later for writing Yiddish and Ladino)
Cyrillic, Cyrillic alphabet
an alphabet derived from the Greek alphabet and used for writing Slavic languages (Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Ukrainian, and some other Slavic languages)
Arabic alphabet
the alphabet of 28 characters derived from Aramaic and used for writing Arabic languages (and borrowed for writing Urdu)
Bodoni, Bodoni font, modern, modern font
a typeface (based on an 18th century design by Gianbattista Bodoni) distinguished by regular shape and hairline serifs and heavy downstrokes
old style, old style font
a typeface (based on an 18th century design) distinguished by irregularity and slanted ascender serifs and little contrast between light and heavy strokes
roman, roman letters, roman print, roman type
a typeface used in ancient Roman inscriptions
Type of:
printed characters

n (printing) the receptacle in which a compositor has his type, which is divided into compartments for the different letters, spaces, or numbers

“for English, a compositor will ordinarily have two such cases, the upper case containing the capitals and the lower case containing the small letters”
compositor's case, typesetter's case
Type of:
a container that is used to put or keep things in

n nouns or pronouns or adjectives (often marked by inflection) related in some way to other words in a sentence

grammatical case
show 7 types...
hide 7 types...
nominative, nominative case, subject case
the category of nouns serving as the grammatical subject of a verb
oblique, oblique case
any grammatical case other than the nominative
accusative, accusative case, objective case
the case of nouns serving as the direct object of a verb
dative, dative case
the category of nouns serving as the indirect object of a verb
genitive, genitive case, possessive, possessive case
the case expressing ownership
vocative, vocative case
the case (in some inflected languages) used when the referent of the noun is being addressed
ablative, ablative case
the case indicating the agent in passive sentences or the instrument or manner or place of the action described by the verb
Type of:
grammatical category, syntactic category
(grammar) a category of words having the same grammatical properties

v look over, usually with the intention to rob

“They men cased the housed”
Type of:
look over carefully

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.