the act, practice, or art of shooting with guns; gunnery.
the hunting of game with guns.

Origin of gunning

First recorded in 1555–65; gun1 + -ing1




a weapon consisting of a metal tube, with mechanical attachments, from which projectiles are shot by the force of an explosive; a piece of ordnance.
any portable firearm, as a rifle, shotgun, or revolver.
a long-barreled cannon having a relatively flat trajectory.
any device for shooting something under pressure: a paint gun; a staple gun.
Slang. a person whose profession is killing; professional killer: a gangland gun.
British. a member of a shooting party.
  1. (esp. in baseball) a player’s throwing arm.
  2. guns,the biceps or triceps of the arms: his big, muscular guns.

verb (used with object), gunned, gun·ning.

to shoot with a gun (often followed by down): The guards gunned down the fleeing convict.
to cause (an engine, vehicle, aircraft, etc.) to increase in speed very quickly by increasing the supply of fuel.

verb (used without object), gunned, gun·ning.

to hunt with a gun.
to shoot with a gun.

Verb Phrases

gun for,
  1. to seek with intent to harm or kill.
  2. to seek; try earnestly to obtain: He is gunning for a raise.

Origin of gun

1300–50; Middle English gunne, gonne, apparently short for Anglo-Latin Gunilda, gonnyld, name for engine of war; compare Old Norse Gunna, short for Gunnhildr woman's name
Related formsgun·less, adjective




past participle of gin3. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gunning

Contemporary Examples of gunning

Historical Examples of gunning

British Dictionary definitions for gunning



the act or an instance of shooting with guns
the art, practice, or act of hunting game with guns



  1. a weapon with a metallic tube or barrel from which a missile is discharged, usually by force of an explosion. It may be portable or mounted. In a military context the term applies specifically to a flat-trajectory artillery piece
  2. (as modifier)a gun barrel
the firing of a gun as a salute or signal, as in military ceremonial
a member of or a place in a shooting party or syndicate
any device used to project something under pressurea grease gun; a spray gun
US slang an armed criminal; gunman
Australian and NZ slang
  1. an expert
  2. (as modifier)a gun shearer; a gun batsman
go great guns slang to act or function with great speed, intensity, etc
jump the gun or beat the gun
  1. (of a runner, etc) to set off before the starting signal is given
  2. informalto act prematurely
spike someone's guns See spike 1 (def. 15)
stick to one's guns informal to maintain one's opinions or intentions in spite of opposition

verb guns, gunning or gunned

(when tr, often foll by down) to shoot (someone) with a gun
(tr) to press hard on the accelerator of (an engine)to gun the engine of a car
(intr) to hunt with a gun
See also gun for

Word Origin for gun

C14: probably from a female pet name shortened from the Scandinavian name Gunnhildr (from Old Norse gunnr war + hildr war)
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 gunning



mid-14c., gunne "an engine of war that throws rocks, arrows or other missiles," probably a shortening of woman's name Gunilda, found in Middle English gonnilde "cannon" and in an Anglo-Latin reference to a specific gun from a 1330 munitions inventory of Windsor Castle ("...una magna balista de cornu quae Domina Gunilda ..."), from Old Norse Gunnhildr, woman's name, from gunnr + hildr, both meaning "war, battle." First element from PIE *gwhen- "to strike, kill" (see bane); for second, cf. Hilda.

The identification of women with powerful weapons is common historically (cf. Big Bertha, Brown Bess, Mons Meg, etc.); meaning shifted with technology, from cannons to firearms as they developed 15c. Great guns (cannon, etc.) distinguished from small guns (such as muskets) from c.1400. Applied to pistols and revolvers after 1744. Meaning "thief, rascal" is from 1858. Son of a gun is originally nautical. To jump the gun (1912, American English) is from track and field. Guns "a woman's breasts" (especially if prominent) attested by 2006.



"to shoot with a gun," 1620s, from gun (n.); the sense of "to accelerate an engine" is from 1930, from earlier phrase to give (something) the gun. Related: Gunned; gunning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with gunning


In addition to the idiom beginning with gun

  • gun for
  • gung ho

also see:

  • at gunpoint
  • big cheese (gun)
  • great guns
  • hired gun
  • hold a gun to someone's head
  • jump the gun
  • smoking gun
  • son of a bitch (gun)
  • stick to one's guns
  • under the gun
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.