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half-cock

[haf-kok, hahf-]
verb (used with object)
  1. to set the hammer of (a firearm) at half cock.
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Origin of half-cock

First recorded in 1825–35

half cock

noun
  1. the position of the hammer of a firearm when held halfway between the firing and retracted positions by a mechanism so that it will not operate.
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Origin of half cock

First recorded in 1695–1705
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for half-cock

Historical Examples of half-cock

  • It is not true; but even if true, better (p. 243) to go off at half-cock than not at all.

    Diary from November 12, 1862, to October 18, 1863

    Adam Gurowski

  • The hammer of the Tennesseean's pistol stopped at half-cock.

  • Then, in a flash, as it were, I remembered that it was on the half-cock.

    Maiwa's Revenge

    H. Rider Haggard

  • Thus the criticism of the unthinking—of the laymen who went off at half-cock.

  • With his left hand he pulled the hammer back to half-cock, then full.

    Shaman

    Robert Shea


British Dictionary definitions for half-cock

half-cock

noun
  1. on a single-action firearm, a halfway position in which the hammer can be set for safety; in this position the trigger is cocked by the hammer which cannot reach the primer to fire the weapon
  2. go off at half-cock or go off half-cocked
    1. to fail as a result of inadequate preparation or premature starting
    2. to act or function prematurely
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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