great guns


Informal. in a relentlessly energetic or successful manner: The new president has the company going great guns.


(used as an expression of surprise, astonishment, etc.).



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Origin of great guns

First recorded in 1870–75 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for great guns

  • It was at a period when everybody professed to adore them, and especially the great-guns of literature.

  • Cries and groans and shouts from the row-boats followed the simultaneous discharge from our great-guns and small-arms.

    The Cruise of the Frolic|W.H.G. Kingston
  • Apparently rendered savage by this event, the Russians let fly a volley from their four great-guns, but without serious result.

  • For hours together we were practised at the small-arms and great-guns, which had never before been thought of.

    Old Jack|W.H.G. Kingston

Idioms and Phrases with great guns

great guns


Very energetically or successfully. This colloquial expression usually occurs in the phrase go great guns, as in They're going great guns with those drawings. The expression comes from British naval slang of the late 1700s, when blowing great guns meant a violent gale. Harry Truman used the term in Dear Bess (1945): “We have been going great guns in the last day or two.”


great gun. Also big gun. An important person, as in All the great guns came to the reception. This usage is heard less often today. [Slang; early 1800s] Also see big cheese.


Great guns! An expletive expressing surprise or astonishment, as in Great guns! You're not leaving now? [Late 1800s]

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