frightened by the sound of a gunshot: a gun-shy bird dog.
hesitant, wary, or distrustful, especially because of previous unpleasant experience.

Origin of gun-shy

First recorded in 1880–85
Related formsgun-shy·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gun-shy

Contemporary Examples of gun-shy

  • France wants to lead the effort jointly with Britain, but the U.K., also gun-shy after the Iraq war, backs the NATO tack.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Libya: Allied Airstrikes Pummel Libya

    The Daily Beast

    March 19, 2011

  • Attorney General Eric Holder says it will be a priority; Speaker Nancy Pelosi so far has been gun-shy about taking on the issue.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Worse Than the War

    John Avlon

    April 9, 2009

Historical Examples of gun-shy

  • Only one of them except Devant gave the gun-shy dog a thought.

    Frank of Freedom Hill

    Samuel A. Derieux

  • Gun-shy investors in Wall Street, and elsewhere too, will have nothing of them.

    Our Railroads To-Morrow

    Edward Hungerford

  • Don't let him see you doing it or he'll get gun-shy an' jump th' country.

    Hopalong Cassidy

    Clarence E. Mulford

  • He had, too, the reputation of being the most gun-shy and bullet-proof of social lions.

    The Purple Heights

    Marie Conway Oemler

  • She first had to get her pony to stand She knew it was not gun-shy.

British Dictionary definitions for gun-shy



afraid of a gun or the sound it makesa gun-shy dog is useless for shooting
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

Word Origin and History for gun-shy

1884, originally of sporting dogs, from gun (n.) + shy (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper