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  1. a weapon consisting of a metal tube, with mechanical attachments, from which projectiles are shot by the force of an explosive; a piece of ordnance.
  2. any portable firearm, as a rifle, shotgun, or revolver.
  3. a long-barreled cannon having a relatively flat trajectory.
  4. any device for shooting something under pressure: a paint gun; a staple gun.
  5. Slang. a person whose profession is killing; professional killer: a gangland gun.
  6. British. a member of a shooting party.
  7. electron gun.
  8. Slang.
    1. (esp. in baseball) a player’s throwing arm.
    2. guns,the biceps or triceps of the arms: his big, muscular guns.
verb (used with object), gunned, gun·ning.
  1. to shoot with a gun (often followed by down): The guards gunned down the fleeing convict.
  2. to cause (an engine, vehicle, aircraft, etc.) to increase in speed very quickly by increasing the supply of fuel.
verb (used without object), gunned, gun·ning.
  1. to hunt with a gun.
  2. to shoot with a gun.
Verb Phrases
  1. gun for,
    1. to seek with intent to harm or kill.
    2. to seek; try earnestly to obtain: He is gunning for a raise.
  1. give the gun, Slang. to put into motion or speed up: We gave the motor the gun and drove off.
  2. jump the gun, Slang.
    1. to begin a race before the starting signal.
    2. to begin prematurely; act too hastily.
  3. spike someone's guns, to frustrate or prevent someone from accomplishing a plan: Our competitors planned a surprise reduction in their rates, but we discovered it and were able to spike their guns.
  4. stick to one's guns, to maintain one's position in the face of opposition; stand firm: They stuck to their guns and refused to submit.Also stand by one's guns.
  5. under the gun, under pressure, as to meet a deadline or solve a problem: We're all under the gun with these new sales quotas.

Origin of gun1

1300–50; Middle English gunne, gonne, apparently short for Anglo-Latin Gunilda, gonnyld, name for engine of war; compare Old Norse Gunna, short for Gunnhildr woman's name
Related formsgun·less, adjective


  1. past participle of gin3.


  1. cotton gin.
  2. a trap or snare for game.
  3. any of various machines employing simple tackle or windlass mechanisms for hoisting.
  4. a stationary prime mover having a drive shaft rotated by horizontal beams pulled by horses walking in a circle.
verb (used with object), ginned, gin·ning.
  1. to clear (cotton) of seeds with a gin.
  2. to snare (game).

Origin of gin2

1150–1200; Middle English gyn, aphetic variant of Old French engin engine
Related formsgin·ner, noun


verb (used with or without object), gan, gun, gin·ning. Archaic.
  1. to begin.

Origin of gin3

1150–1200; Middle English ginnen, Old English ginnan, aphetic variant of onginnan, beginnen to begin


  1. Also called gin rummy. a variety of rummy for two players, in which a player with 10 or fewer points in unmatched cards can end the game by laying down the hand.
  2. the winning of such a game by laying down a full set of matched cards, earning the winner a bonus of 20 or 25 points.
verb (used without object), ginned, gin·ning.
  1. to win a game in gin by laying down a hand in which all 10 cards are included in sets.

Origin of gin4

First recorded in 1955–60; perhaps special use of gin1


  1. gunnery.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gun

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "This gun makes me even with you," said Robert, returning his look unflinchingly.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • If you don't put down that gun in double quick time, you'll repent it.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • He said he was out hunting with a friend, and his friend's gun went off accidentally.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • "He had a gun shoved into the hollow of his throat," said Andy.

  • For the gun Andy had his Colt in the holster, and he knew it like his own mind.

British Dictionary definitions for gun


    1. a weapon with a metallic tube or barrel from which a missile is discharged, usually by force of an explosion. It may be portable or mounted. In a military context the term applies specifically to a flat-trajectory artillery piece
    2. (as modifier)a gun barrel
  1. the firing of a gun as a salute or signal, as in military ceremonial
  2. a member of or a place in a shooting party or syndicate
  3. any device used to project something under pressurea grease gun; a spray gun
  4. US slang an armed criminal; gunman
  5. Australian and NZ slang
    1. an expert
    2. (as modifier)a gun shearer; a gun batsman
  6. go great guns slang to act or function with great speed, intensity, etc
  7. jump the gun or beat the gun
    1. (of a runner, etc) to set off before the starting signal is given
    2. informalto act prematurely
  8. spike someone's guns See spike 1 (def. 15)
  9. stick to one's guns informal to maintain one's opinions or intentions in spite of opposition
verb guns, gunning or gunned
  1. (when tr, often foll by down) to shoot (someone) with a gun
  2. (tr) to press hard on the accelerator of (an engine)to gun the engine of a car
  3. (intr) to hunt with a gun
See also gun for

Word Origin

C14: probably from a female pet name shortened from the Scandinavian name Gunnhildr (from Old Norse gunnr war + hildr war)


  1. an alcoholic drink obtained by distillation and rectification of the grain of malted barley, rye, or maize, flavoured with juniper berries
  2. any of various grain spirits flavoured with other fruit or aromatic essencessloe gin
  3. an alcoholic drink made from any rectified spirit

Word Origin

C18: shortened from Dutch genever juniper, via Old French from Latin jūniperus juniper


  1. a primitive engine in which a vertical shaft is turned by horses driving a horizontal beam or yoke in a circle
  2. Also called: cotton gin a machine of this type used for separating seeds from raw cotton
  3. a trap for catching small mammals, consisting of a noose of thin strong wire
  4. a hand-operated hoist that consists of a drum winder turned by a crank
verb gins, ginning or ginned (tr)
  1. to free (cotton) of seeds with a gin
  2. to trap or snare (game) with a gin
Derived Formsginner, noun

Word Origin

C13 gyn, shortened from engine


verb gins, ginning, gan or gun
  1. an archaic word for begin


  1. Scot if

Word Origin

perhaps related to gif, an earlier form of if


  1. Australian offensive, slang an Aboriginal woman

Word Origin

C19: from a native Australian language
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

Word Origin and History for gun


mid-14c., gunne "an engine of war that throws rocks, arrows or other missiles," probably a shortening of woman's name Gunilda, found in Middle English gonnilde "cannon" and in an Anglo-Latin reference to a specific gun from a 1330 munitions inventory of Windsor Castle ("...una magna balista de cornu quae Domina Gunilda ..."), from Old Norse Gunnhildr, woman's name, from gunnr + hildr, both meaning "war, battle." First element from PIE *gwhen- "to strike, kill" (see bane); for second, cf. Hilda.

The identification of women with powerful weapons is common historically (cf. Big Bertha, Brown Bess, Mons Meg, etc.); meaning shifted with technology, from cannons to firearms as they developed 15c. Great guns (cannon, etc.) distinguished from small guns (such as muskets) from c.1400. Applied to pistols and revolvers after 1744. Meaning "thief, rascal" is from 1858. Son of a gun is originally nautical. To jump the gun (1912, American English) is from track and field. Guns "a woman's breasts" (especially if prominent) attested by 2006.


"to shoot with a gun," 1620s, from gun (n.); the sense of "to accelerate an engine" is from 1930, from earlier phrase to give (something) the gun. Related: Gunned; gunning.



in slang phrase gin up "enliven, make more exciting," 1887, probably from earlier ginger up in same sense (1849), from ginger in sense of "spice, pizzazz;" specifically in reference to the treatment described in the 1811 slang dictionary under the entry for feague:

... to put ginger up a horse's fundament, and formerly, as it is said, a live eel, to make him lively and carry his tail well; it is said, a forfeit is incurred by any horse-dealer's servant, who shall shew a horse without first feaguing him. Feague is used, figuratively, for encouraging or spiriting one up.



"to begin," c.1200, ginnen, shortened form of beginnen (see begin).



"type of distilled drinking alcohol," 1714, shortening of geneva, altered (by influence of the similarity of the name of the Swiss city, with which it has no other connection) from Dutch genever "juniper" (because the alcohol was flavored with its berries), from Old French genevre, from Vulgar Latin *jeniperus, from Latin juniperus "juniper" (see juniper). Gin and tonic attested by 1873; gin-sling by 1790. Card game gin rummy first attested 1941 (described in "Life" that year as the latest Hollywood fad).



"machine for separating cotton from seeds," 1796, American English, used earlier of various other machineries, from Middle English gin "ingenious device, contrivance" (c.1200), from Old French gin "machine, device, scheme," shortened form of engin, from Latin ingenium (see engine). The verb in this sense is recorded from 1789.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with gun


In addition to the idiom beginning with gun

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.