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[pis-tl] /ˈpɪs tl/
a short firearm intended to be held and fired with one hand.
verb (used with object), pistoled, pistoling or (especially British) pistolled, pistolling.
to shoot with a pistol.
Origin of pistol
1560-70; < Middle French pistole < German, earlier pitschal, pitschole, petsole < Czech píšt’ala literally, pipe, fife, whistle (presumably a slang term for a type of light harquebus employed during the Hussite wars), akin to pištět to squeak, peep
Related forms
pistollike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pistol
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Katherine handed Austin the pistol which she had taken from Dick's hand.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • A moment later, when he was alone, he uncocked the pistol--Dick's pistol.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • He leaped toward Garson—would have wrenched the pistol from the other's grasp.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • He sprang to the octagonal window, even as Dick took possession of the pistol.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • His hand slipped into the pocket where was the pistol, and clutched it.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
British Dictionary definitions for pistol


a short-barrelled handgun
hold a pistol to a person's head, to threaten a person in order to force him to do what one wants
verb -tols, -tolling, -tolled (US) -tols, -toling, -toled
(transitive) to shoot with a pistol
Word Origin
C16: from French pistole, from German, from Czech pišt'ala pistol, pipe; related to Russian pischal shepherd's pipes
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 pistol

"small hand-held firearm," 1570s, from Middle French pistole "short firearm" (1566), of uncertain origin, sometimes said to be from German Pistole, from Czech pis'tala "firearm," literally "tube, pipe," from pisteti "to whistle," of imitative origin, related to Russian pischal "shepherd's pipe."

But earlier English form pistolet (1550) is said to be from Middle French pistolet "a small firearm," also "a small dagger," which may be the literal sense; though some connect this word with Italian pistolese, in reference to Pistoia, town in Tuscany noted for gunsmithing. Pistol-whip (v.) is first recorded 1942.

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



  1. A person or thing that is remarkable, wonderful, superior, etc; beaut, pip, piss-cutter: That Ruby Jean, she's a pistol (1984+)
  2. A woman's breast; bazooka, jug, tit: Whoa! Look at the pistols on that new French teacher (1990s+)
  3. Hot pastrami (1950s+ Lunch counter)

Related Terms

hot as a three-dollar pistol

[first sense probably a euphemism for pisser; lunch-counter sense because the eater feels as if shot in the stomach soon after eating hot pastrami]

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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