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long shot, a

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A remote possibility of success, as in It's a long shot that Joan will actually finish the marathon, or He may be a good programmer, but he's a long shot for that job. This expression alludes to the inaccuracy of early firearms, which when shot over a distance rarely hit the target. It is commonly used in horseracing for a bet made at great odds. A related phrase is not by a long shot, meaning “not even remotely,” as in I'll never make it to California in three days, not by a long shot. [Late 1800s]

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

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