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[shot-guhn] /ˈʃɒtˌgʌn/
a smoothbore gun for firing small shots to kill birds and small quadrupeds, though often used with buckshot to kill larger animals.
Football. an offensive formation, designed primarily for passing situations, in which the backfield is spread out with the quarterback positioned a few yards behind the center and the other backs, as potential pass receivers, positioned as slotbacks or flankers.
of, pertaining to, used in, or carried out with a shotgun:
a shotgun murder; shotgun pellets.
covering a wide area in an irregularly effective manner without concern for details or particulars; tending to be all-inclusive, nonselective, and haphazard; indiscriminate in choice and indifferent to specific results:
He favored the shotgun approach in his political attacks.
seeking a desired result through the use or inclusion of a wide variety of elements.
having all the rooms opening one into the next in a line from front to back:
shotgun apartment; shotgun cottage.
gained or characterized by coercive methods.
verb (used with object), shotgunned, shotgunning.
to fire a shotgun at.
ride shotgun,
  1. (formerly) to ride atop a stagecoach as a shotgun-bearing guard.
  2. to protect or keep a watchful eye on something:
    riding shotgun over the nation's economy.
Origin of shotgun
1770-80, Americanism; shot1 + gun1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for ride shotgun
Historical Examples
  • Which if thar's money aboard, an' the express outfit wants it defended, they slams on some sport to ride shotgun that trip.

    Faro Nell and Her Friends Alfred Henry Lewis
British Dictionary definitions for ride shotgun


  1. a shoulder firearm with unrifled bore designed for the discharge of small shot at short range and used mainly for hunting small game
  2. (as modifier): shotgun fire
(American football) an offensive formation in which the quarterback lines up for a snap unusually far behind the line of scrimmage
(mainly US) involving coercion or duress: a shotgun merger
(mainly US) involving or relying on speculative suggestions, etc: a shotgun therapy
verb -guns, -gunning, -gunned
(transitive) (US) to shoot or threaten with or as if with a shotgun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ride shotgun



1821, American English, from shot (n.) in the sense of "lead in small pellets" (1770) + gun (n.). As distinguished from a rifle, which fires bullets. Shotgun wedding first attested 1903, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for ride shotgun

ride shotgun

verb phrase

  1. To act as a guard, esp on a vehicle; keep a vigilant eye peeled; ensure safety: beefing up security and changing the pattern of deliveries, although nobody will start to ride shotgun/ Several wives have gotten wise and are riding shotgun on who checks in and out (1963+)
  2. To ride in the front passenger seat of a car (1960s+ Teenagers)

[fr the Old West practice of having an armed guard with a shotgun riding beside the driver on the stagecoaches]



  1. Drunk (1864+)
  2. (also shot to hell) Worn out or out of repair: This old machine is shot (1930+)
  3. Exhausted; ill; in bad shape: Say, am I shot? (1939+)


  1. A drink of straight liquor (1676+)
  2. A glass or other serving of Coca-Cola2 (1950s+ Southern & Western lunch counter)
  3. An injection of narcotics; fix (1920s+ Narcotics)
  4. An atomic explosion, a rocket or missile launching, or some other complex sort of military and technological blasting (1950s+)
  5. A person's particular preference, style, etc; bag, thing: That's our shot. That's who we are (1960s+)
  6. A try; an attempt, esp at something rather difficult: He didn't make it, but he gave it a hell of a shot (1840+)
  7. A very hard-hit ball, usually a line drive, and often a home run (1880+ Baseball)
  8. A televison appearance: But it was the exposure on television that seemed to count most ...with a shot on ''Good Morning America'' believed to be worth its weight in votes (1980s+)
  9. Interpretation; understanding; opinion; guess; take: Gimme your shot on Leon. You know, tell me about him (1980s+)

Related Terms

beaver shot, call the shots, cheap shot, drop case, give something a shot, give something one's best shot, grab shot, half-shot, have a crack at something, hot shot, long shot, mug shot, not by a long shot, one-shot

[the drinking senses are shortenings of an early 1800s expression shot in the neck, meaning both ''a drink'' and ''drunk''; shoot, ''to guess,'' is found by 1864]

shot across the bow, a

noun phrase

A warning or admonition: White House dithering led the Republican whip to fire a warning shot across the Administration's bow

[1990s+; fr an old naval practice]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with ride shotgun

ride shotgun

Guard someone or something while in transit, as in The reporter found himself in the odd position of riding shotgun for an accused mobster. This term alludes to the armed defender of a stagecoach who sat beside the driver to protect against marauders and bandits. Later it was transferred to anyone riding in the front passenger seat of a motor vehicle, as well as to the more general function of protection. [ Mid-1900s ]


In addition to the idiom beginning with shotgun also see: ride shotgun
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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