[shang-hahy, shang-hahy]

verb (used with object), shang·haied, shang·hai·ing. Nautical.

to enroll or obtain (a sailor) for the crew of a ship by unscrupulous means, as by force or the use of liquor or drugs.

Origin of shanghai

First recorded in 1855–60; after Shanghai
Can be confusedhijack kidnap shanghai skyjack Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for shanghaied

capture, seize, snatch, grab, hijack, abduct, pirate, skyjack

Examples from the Web for shanghaied

Historical Examples of shanghaied

  • When one is shanghaied, however,—in the hands of buccaneers,—it is too late to withdraw.

    A Far Country, Complete

    Winston Churchill

  • The young writer here mentioned has been doped and shanghaied.

    The Fiction Factory

    John Milton Edwards

  • More than one negro had been shanghaied in that way and smuggled off to sea.

    Kennedy Square

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • It wouldn't do some of you people a bit of harm if you were shanghaied yourselves.

  • From the other sailors aboard he learned that he was not the only member of the crew who had been shanghaied.

    The Mucker

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

British Dictionary definitions for shanghaied


verb -hais, -haiing or -haied (tr)

to kidnap (a man or seaman) for enforced service at sea, esp on a merchant ship
to force or trick (someone) into doing something, going somewhere, etc
Australian and NZ to shoot with a catapult


Australian and NZ a catapult

Word Origin for shanghai

C19: from the city of Shanghai; from the forceful methods formerly used to collect crews for voyages to the Orient



a port in E China, capital of Shanghai municipality (traditionally in SE Jiangsu) near the estuary of the Yangtze: the largest city in China and one of the largest ports in the world; a major cultural and industrial centre, with many universities. Pop: 12 665 000 (2005 est)
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 shanghaied



"to drug a man unconscious and ship him as a sailor," 1854, American English, from the practice of kidnapping to fill the crews of ships making extended voyages, such as to the Chinese seaport of Shanghai.


Chinese seaport, literally "by the sea," from Shang "on, above" + hai "sea." In 19c., a long-legged breed of hens, supposed to have come from there; hence U.S. slang senses relating to long, tall persons or things.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

shanghaied in Culture


Largest city in China, located in the eastern part of the country on the Pacific Ocean.


Shanghai is the most populous city in Asia.


It is one of the world's great seaports.


Opened to foreign trade by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, Shanghai became a treaty port administered by Britain, the United States, and France until World War II.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.