but my words stopt him and he laughed—as I remember that I laughed when I ran Angus Macalister through the sword-arm last August, because he said that Mrs. Vansuythen was no better than she should be.

This is from "The Dream of Duncan Parrenness" by Rudyard Kipling.

I don't understand the meaning of---

I ran Angus Macalister through the sword-arm

I am glad if someone would kindly teach me.

  • Plus one for reading Kipling. If you master the writings of Kipling you will understand a big part of English culture.
    – Dan
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 4:35

1 Answer 1


To "run someone through" means to impale them on your sword.

The "sword arm" is the arm he uses to swing his sword.

It means he stabbed Angus very deeply in the arm in which he holds his sword.

  • 20
    I'd always interpret "run through" not just to mean a deep stab, but a stab where the tip comes out the other side
    – Tristan
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 10:20
  • 1
    @Tristan - agreed. I suppose you could argue that if someone is run through they are (very) deeply stabbed, but to go through something is indeed to enter and emerge on the other side. "(run someone through) ​LITERARY to push a sword through someone’s body". Collins Dictionary. Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 11:21
  • @Tristan, I suspect that is the literal meaning, but I also suspect many people aren't familiar enough with sword fighting to always use it in the exact technical sense. Which is why I chose to use the slightly ambiguous impale to gloss the phrase. The first dictionary site I looked at gives "to pierce through" as a definition of impale.
    – The Photon
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 16:15
  • 2
    @ThePhoton But I think people know what "through" means. "Ran into the barn" vs. "Ran through the barn". "Running a rope through these eyelets" implies going all the way. And literary arm stabs are often merely painful pricks. Going completely through the muscle feels like one step up from that (for an arm). Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 18:07
  • @ThePhoton - yes, and another meaning involves "to pierce with a sharpened stake thrust up through the body, as for torture or punishment". I will not say where the stake ('pale') is thrust. Often one is impaled on something fixed. Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 20:36

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