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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
First recorded in 1855-60; after Shanghai
Can be confused
hijack, kidnap, shanghai, skyjack. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shanghaied
Historical Examples
  • When one is shanghaied, however,—in the hands of buccaneers,—it is too late to withdraw.

    A Far Country, Complete Winston Churchill
  • The young writer here mentioned has been doped and shanghaied.

    The Fiction Factory John Milton Edwards
  • More than one negro had been shanghaied in that way and smuggled off to sea.

    Kennedy Square F. Hopkinson Smith
  • It wouldn't do some of you people a bit of harm if you were shanghaied yourselves.

  • From the other sailors aboard he learned that he was not the only member of the crew who had been shanghaied.

    The Mucker Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • I was shanghaied into one of their lime-juicers once, an' I never forgot it!

  • Ought to be shanghaied to the Khiftan Sector and sold to the priests of Fasif!

    Time Crime H. Beam Piper
  • I bet he was pretty mad when he woke up and found he'd been shanghaied, and I shouldn't wonder but he wanted to fight somebody.

    The Trembling of a Leaf William Somerset Maugham
  • The shanghaied man stood facing Schantze, with all the deference of a sailor, yet subtly defiant.

    Tramping on Life Harry Kemp
  • When a drugged and shanghaied sailor comes on board the mate looks him over for dangerous weapons.

    The Flying Bo'sun

    Arthur Mason
British Dictionary definitions for shanghaied


/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 shanghaied



"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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shanghaied 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 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 shanghaied



To put someone into an awkward situation by trickery; to force someone into a situation (1871+)

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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