careless; inattentive; haphazard: The professor criticized the hit-or-miss quality of our research.

Nearby words

  1. hit up for,
  2. hit upon,
  3. hit wicket,
  4. hit-and-miss,
  5. hit-and-run,
  6. hit-run,
  7. hit-skip,
  8. hitachi,
  9. hitch,
  10. hitch a ride

Origin of hit-or-miss

First recorded in 1600–10



verb (used with object), hit, hit·ting.

to deal a blow or stroke to: Hit the nail with the hammer.
to come against with an impact or collision, as a missile, a flying fragment, a falling body, or the like: The car hit the tree.
to reach with a missile, a weapon, a blow, or the like, as one throwing, shooting, or striking: Did the bullet hit him?
to succeed in striking: With his final shot he hit the mark.
  1. to make (a base hit): He hit a single and a home run.
  2. bat1(def 12).
to drive or propel by a stroke: to hit a ball onto the green.
to have a marked effect or influence on; affect severely: We were all hit by the change in management.
to assail effectively and sharply (often followed by out): The speech hits out at warmongering.
to request or demand of: He hit me for a loan.
to reach or attain (a specified level or amount): Prices are expected to hit a new low. The new train can hit 100 mph.
to be published in or released to; appear in: When will this report hit the papers? What will happen when the story hits the front page?
to land on or arrive in: The troops hit the beach at 0800. When does Harry hit town?
to give (someone) another playing card, drink, portion, etc.: If the dealer hits me with an ace, I'll win the hand. Bartender, hit me again.
to come or light upon; meet with; find: to hit the right road.
to agree with; suit exactly: I'm sure this purple shirt will hit Alfred's fancy.
to solve or guess correctly; come upon the right answer or solution: You've hit it!
to succeed in representing or producing exactly: to hit a likeness in a portrait.
Informal. to begin to travel on: Let's hit the road. What time shall we hit the trail?

verb (used without object), hit, hit·ting.

to strike with a missile, a weapon, or the like; deal a blow or blows: The armies hit at dawn.
to come into collision (often followed by against, on, or upon): The door hit against the wall.
Slang. to kill; murder.
(of an internal-combustion engine) to ignite a mixture of air and fuel as intended: This jalopy is hitting on all cylinders.
to come or light (usually followed by upon or on): to hit on a new way.


an impact or collision, as of one thing against another.
a stroke that reaches an object; blow.
a stroke of satire, censure, etc.: a hit at complacency.
Baseball. base hit.
  1. a game won by a player after the opponent has thrown off one or more men from the board.
  2. any winning game.
a successful stroke, performance, or production; success: The play is a hit.
Slang. a dose of a narcotic drug.
Digital Technology.
  1. (in information retrieval) an instance of successfully locating an item of data, as in a database or on the Internet: When I search for my name, I get lots of hits.
  2. an instance of accessing a website.
Slang. a killing, murder, or assassination, especially one carried out by criminal prearrangements.

Verb Phrases

hit off,
  1. to represent or describe precisely or aptly: In his new book he hits off the American temperament with amazing insight.
  2. to imitate, especially in order to satirize.
hit on, Slang. to make persistent sexual advances to: guys who hit on girls at social events.
hit out,
  1. to deal a blow aimlessly: a child hitting out in anger and frustration.
  2. to make a violent verbal attack: Critics hit out at the administration's new energy policy.
hit up, Slang.
  1. to ask to borrow money from: He hit me up for ten bucks.
  2. to inject a narcotic drug into a vein.

Origin of hit

before 1100; 1865–70, Americanism for def 5a; Middle English hitten, Old English hittan; perhaps < Scandinavian; compare Old Norse hitta to come upon (by chance), meet with

Related forms

Synonym study

1. See strike, beat. 25, 27, 29. See blow1.

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for hit or miss


verb hits, hitting or hit (mainly tr)

(also intr) to deal (a blow or stroke) to (a person or thing); strikethe man hit the child
to come into violent contact withthe car hit the tree
to reach or strike with a missile, thrown object, etcto hit a target
to make or cause to make forceful contact; knock or bumpI hit my arm on the table
to propel or cause to move by strikingto hit a ball
cricket to score (runs)
to affect (a person, place, or thing) suddenly or adverselyhis illness hit his wife very hard
to become suddenly apparent to (a person)the reason for his behaviour hit me and made the whole episode clear
to achieve or reachto hit the jackpot; unemployment hit a new high
to experience or encounterI've hit a slight snag here
slang to murder (a rival criminal) in fulfilment of an underworld contract or vendetta
to accord or suit (esp in the phrase hit one's fancy)
to guess correctly or find out by accidentyou have hit the answer
informal to set out on (a road, path, etc)let's hit the road
informal to arrive or appear inhe will hit town tomorrow night
informal, mainly US and Canadian to demand or request fromhe hit me for a pound
slang to drink an excessive amount of (alcohol)to hit the bottle
hit it music slang start playing
hit skins US slang to have sexual intercourse
hit the sack or hit the hay slang to go to bed
not know what has hit one to be completely taken by surprise


an impact or collision
a shot, blow, etc, that reaches its object
an apt, witty, or telling remark
  1. a person or thing that gains wide appealshe's a hit with everyone
  2. (as modifier)a hit record
informal a stroke of luck
  1. a murder carried out as the result of an underworld vendetta or rivalry
  2. (as modifier)a hit squad
slang a drag on a cigarette, a swig from a bottle, a line of a drug, or an injection of heroin
computing a single visit to a website
make a hit with or score a hit with informal to make a favourable impression on

Word Origin for hit

Old English hittan, from Old Norse hitta

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 hit or miss
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with hit or miss

hit or miss

Haphazardly, at random. For example, She took dozens of photos, hit or miss, hoping that some would be good. [c. 1600]


In addition to the idioms beginning with hit

  • hit a snag
  • hit below the belt
  • hit between the eyes
  • hit bottom
  • hit it big
  • hit it off
  • hit on
  • hit on all cylinders
  • hit one's stride
  • hit one where one lives
  • hit or miss
  • hit out
  • hit parade
  • hit the books
  • hit the bottle
  • hit the bricks
  • hit the bull's-eye
  • hit the ceiling
  • hit the deck
  • hit the fan
  • hit the ground running
  • hit the hay
  • hit the high spots
  • hit the jackpot
  • hit the mark
  • hit the nail on the head
  • hit the road
  • hit the roof
  • hit the sack
  • hit the spot
  • hit up for
  • hit upon

also see:

  • (hit) below the belt
  • can't hit the broad side of a barn
  • heavy hitter
  • make a hit
  • pinch hitter
  • smash hit
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.