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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
An Americanism dating back to 1770-80; shot1 + gun1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shotgun
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • One of them had a shotgun and others were armed with forks and rakes.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • The men backed away, the farmer let the shotgun drop to the ground.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • A feather-duster seemed a more fitting weapon than a shotgun.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln
  • It's for this shotgun speshulist to give the route agents an argyooment.

    Faro Nell and Her Friends Alfred Henry Lewis
  • He left his shotgun where it had fallen; the distance was too great for it.

    When the West Was Young Frederick R. Bechdolt
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

shotgun 1


I am going to ride in the front passenger seat!: yelled Shotgun for the test drive


(also blunderbuss) Very diffuse and general; indis-criminate; done in haste; scattergun: I hate it when the administrators make shotgun accusations/ But this is a blunderbuss technique (1930s+)


  1. A machine gun or other rapid-fire gun (WWII Army)
  2. A type of pipe used for smoking marijuana; bong (1960s+ Narcotics)
  3. n offensive formation in which the quarterback lines up well behind instead of immediately behind the center (1966+ Football)

Related Terms

ride shotgun, sit shotgun

shotgun 2


A matchmaker; a marriage broker

[1950s+; fr Yiddish shadchen, which is pronounced something like shotgun; perhaps reinforced by the notion of a shotgun wedding]

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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