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[shang-hahy, shang-hahy] /ˈʃæŋ haɪ, ʃæŋˈhaɪ/
verb (used with object), shanghaied, shanghaiing. Nautical.
to enroll or obtain (a sailor) for the crew of a ship by unscrupulous means, as by force or the use of liquor or drugs.
Origin of shanghai
1855-60; after Shanghai
Can be confused
hijack, kidnap, shanghai, skyjack.


[shang-hahy; Chinese shahng-hahy] /ʃæŋˈhaɪ; Chinese ˈʃɑŋˈhaɪ/
Pinyin, Wade-Giles. a seaport and municipality in E China, near the mouth of the Chang Jiang.
a type of long-legged chicken believed to be of Asian origin. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for shanghai
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She never willingly talked about shanghai, or her life there.

    Number Seventeen Louis Tracy
  • How the deuce did the beads happen to turn up here in shanghai?

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • Mose slipped from the saddle and tossed the bridle to shanghai.

    Old Man Curry Charles E. (Charles Emmett) Van Loan
  • It was only twelve miles long, connecting shanghai with Woosung.

    A Wayfarer in China Elizabeth Kendall
  • Most of the American and Japanese trade centres at shanghai.

    Commercial Geography Jacques W. Redway
British Dictionary definitions for shanghai


/ˈʃæŋhaɪ; ʃæŋˈhaɪ/
verb (transitive) -hais, -haiing, -haied
to kidnap (a man or seaman) for enforced service at sea, esp on a merchant ship
to force or trick (someone) into doing something, going somewhere, etc
(Austral & NZ) to shoot with a catapult
(Austral & NZ) a catapult
Word Origin
C19: from the city of Shanghai; from the forceful methods formerly used to collect crews for voyages to the Orient


a port in E China, capital of Shanghai municipality (traditionally in SE Jiangsu) near the estuary of the Yangtze: the largest city in China and one of the largest ports in the world; a major cultural and industrial centre, with many universities. Pop: 12 665 000 (2005 est)
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 shanghai

"to drug a man unconscious and ship him as a sailor," 1854, American English, from the practice of kidnapping to fill the crews of ships making extended voyages, such as to the Chinese seaport of Shanghai.


Chinese seaport, literally "by the sea," from Shang "on, above" + hai "sea." In 19c., a long-legged breed of hens, supposed to have come from there; hence U.S. slang senses relating to long, tall persons or things.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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shanghai in Culture

Shanghai definition

Largest city in China, located in the eastern part of the country on the Pacific Ocean.

Note: Shanghai is the most populous city in Asia.
Note: It is one of the world's great seaports.
Note: Opened to foreign trade by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, Shanghai became a treaty port administered by Britain, the United States, and France until World War II.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for shanghai


Related Terms

a dirty shame

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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