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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 shotgun
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His rifle was in his arms, and the shotgun stood beside him.

    The Camp in the Snow William Murray Graydon
  • Got a shotgun, but if anybody come, I guess they'd take it away from me.

    Free Air Sinclair Lewis
  • I don't believe any of them—at the time that they were standing directly around Oswald, had a shotgun—I may be mistaken.

    Warren Commission (7 of 26): Hearings Vol. VII (of 15) The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy
  • His hat had once been a Stetson; it had also quite evidently been a target for a shotgun.

    A Woman at Bay Nicholas Carter
  • With a shotgun in his hand Andy wanted to have some fun with one of the servant girls, but Randy quickly stopped him.

    The Rover Boys on a Hunt Arthur M. Winfield (Edward Stratemeyer)
British Dictionary definitions for 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 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 shotgun



  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 shotgun


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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