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Case in point

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 14, 2009 at 21:43

In Reply to: Case in point posted by pm011 on January 14, 2009 at 10:16:

: I would like to contribute to the archive by submitting a phrase for it's meaning. That being said, my inquiry is to the meaning of "case in point".

The idiom in point is "in point." It means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "Apposite, appropriate, or pertinent. Now chiefly in case in point: an apposite instance, an example that illustrates the point."

The OED gives examples of "in point" from 1633 on. Its first citation of "case in point" is from 1875, which probably can be taken to mean that it was in use much earlier. A "case in point" is one which contributes to the point one is trying to make, perhaps as an illustration. Since "in point" means apposite, pertinent, etc., to the matter under discussion, a case in point is a case or example which is apposite or pertinent to the point under discussion. The phrase "case in point" did not drive out the use of "in point" in the meaning cited here. But you will hear "case in point" far more often these days.

There are other ways to say "in point," depending on the context. One can say that such-and-such "bears on the point," which means that it is "in point." Sometimes "to the point" is used about the same way that "in point" is used.

The word "point" was brought into English from French, principally by the Norman invaders, in its primary mean of something small or an individual, discrete item, orten in respect to a larger whole. I am trying to paraphrase, without too much inaccuracy, the discussion in the OED.