Rails Against: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
January 18, 2024

"Rails against" means to criticize or oppose something or someone strongly. If you're "railing against" something, you're speaking out loudly and forcefully to say you don't like it or don't agree with it.

In short:

"Rails against" means to vehemently oppose or criticize something.

What Does “Rails Against” Mean?

"Rails against" means to criticize, protest, or complain about something strongly. It conveys vigorous, harsh, and sustained opposition to something.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • When someone "rails against" something, they launch a tirade or prolonged verbal attack expressing disapproval.
  • For example: "The senator railed against the new legislation during his speech, citing multiple flaws.
  • "Rails against" is often used when someone speaks forcefully against a policy, idea, or situation they deem unjust.
  • Synonyms include "inveighs against," "fulminates against," "rants against," and "revolts against."
  • The term can apply to oral or written arguments. For instance, an editorial may "rail against" corruption.
  • The phrase uses "rail" to mean a verbal outburst and strong condemnation.

Where Does “Rails Against” Come From?

The term “rail” comes from the Latin word “regula,” which means “rule, straight piece of wood.” This term is a diminutive form related to “regere,” which means “to straighten, guide.” The term has been in use since around 1300, originating from the Old French “raille, reille,” meaning “bolt, bar”, which was derived from Vulgar Latin "*regla." The verb form of “rail,” meaning to complain or speak vehemently and bitterly, comes from the Old French “raillier,” which means "to tease or joke." The term has evolved to mean "complain, speak vehemently and bitterly," capturing the essence of strong criticism or opposition.

Historical Example

I do not at all wonder that he hates the real foundation-stone, and rails against that doctine that gives all the glory to God.

- Objections against the Doctrine of the Methodists, 1801

10 Examples of “Rails Against” in Sentences

Here are ten sentences that use "rails against" in various contexts:

  • She rails against the modern education system, believing it stifles creativity.
  •  In hopes of creating a more equitable society, the community leader rails against systemic discrimination.
  • As a journalist, he often rails against corrupt politicians and their deceitful practices.
  • The poet's latest work rails against societal norms and challenges traditional beliefs.
  • The journalist, known for his investigative skills, rails against politicians who play dumb when confronted with tough questions.
  • She confides in her friend as she rails against her unfair treatment at work.
  • Parents railed against the school board's decision to cut funding for the arts program.
  • The artist's exhibition rails against the suppression of free speech.
  • The documentary rails against the fast fashion industry and its impact on the environment.
  • He rails against the injustices faced by marginalized communities.

Examples of “Rails Against” in Pop Culture

The idiom "rails against" has also found its way into pop culture, emphasizing its relevance and resonance:

  • David Lynch, in an article, stated that he "rails against the death of cinemas." It discusses Lynch's strong opposition to the declining state of movie theaters.
  • In the TV show "Lessons in Chemistry," a character "rails against" a woman's choice of wearing pants. The show explores gender roles and societal expectations.
  • John Oliver, in an episode of his show, "rails against birds." The episode humorously criticizes various aspects of birds and why they might be overrated.
  • Jason Aldean, in a concert, "rails against 'Cancel Culture,'" defending his vigilante anthem. The article discusses Aldean's stance on cancel culture and how it impacts the music industry.
  • John Cusack, in an article, "rails against 'legendary' Hollywood greed" as an actors' strike begins. It covers Cusack's views on the financial aspects of Hollywood and how they affect actors.
  • The "Fall of the House of Usher," in an article, "rails against AI writing movies and TV shows." The article delves into the debate over the role of artificial intelligence in creative writing for films and TV shows.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say “Rails Against"

Some alternative phrases to "rails against" include:

  • Denounces
  • Condemns
  • Criticizes
  • Opposes
  • Protests
  • Resists

10 Frequently Asked Questions About “Rails Against”:

  • What does "rails against" mean?

It means to vehemently oppose or criticize something.

  • Where did the idiom originate?

The term "rail" in the context of criticism can be traced back to the late 15th century.

  • Can "rails against" be used in a positive context?

Typically, it's used to express opposition or criticism, so it has a negative connotation.

  • Is "rails against" commonly used in daily conversations?

While not as common as some other idioms, it's understood and used, especially in formal or literary contexts.

  • Are there other idioms similar to "rails against"?

Yes, idioms like "takes issue with" or "speaks out against" convey similar sentiments.

  • How can I use "rails against" in a sentence?

For example, "She rails against the outdated policies of the company."

  • Does "rails against" have variations in other languages?

Many languages have idioms or phrases that convey the idea of strong opposition or criticism.

  • Can businesses or entities "rails against" something?

Yes, businesses or groups can also "rail against" policies, decisions, or trends they disagree with.

  • Is "rails against" a formal or informal idiom?

It can be used in both formal and informal contexts, but it's often seen in more formal or literary writings.

  • Why is understanding idioms like "rails against" important?

Understanding idioms enriches language comprehension and allows for more nuanced communication.

Final Thoughts About “Rails Against”

The phrase "rails against" refers to strongly criticizing or opposing someone or something, often in a public or vehement manner.

In summary:

  • The term "rails" in this context has its origins in the late 15th century from the Old French word "raillier," which means "to tease or joke." Over time, it evolved to signify vehement criticism or opposition.
  • "Rails against" is now commonly used to describe strong disapproval or criticism, especially in public speeches, articles, or social media posts.
  • The phrase is highly versatile and can be used in various contexts, such as politics, social issues, and personal grievances.
  • For instance, an activist might "rail against" social injustice, or a critic might "rail against" a poorly made movie.
  • Using the phrase "rails against" often implies not just disagreement but a deep sense of injustice or wrongness about the subject being criticized, adding weight and urgency to the speaker's words.

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