Nearby words

  1. bolshoi ballet,
  2. bolshoi theater,
  3. bolshy,
  4. bolson,
  5. bolster,
  6. bolt boat,
  7. bolt from (out of) the blue,
  8. bolt from the blue, a,
  9. bolt hole,
  10. bolt upright


Origin of bolt

before 1000; Middle English (noun, v., and adv.), Old English (noun), cognate with Dutch bout, German Bolz

Related formsbolt·er, nounbolt·less, adjectivebolt·like, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for shoot one's bolt


/ (bəʊlt) /


Robert (Oxton). 1924–95, British playwright. His plays include A Man for All Seasons (1960) and he also wrote a number of screenplays
Usain (juːˈseɪn). born 1986, Jamaican athlete: winner of the 100 metres and the 200 metres in the 2008 Olympic Games, setting world records at both distances


/ (bəʊlt) /




stiffly, firmly, or rigidly (archaic except in the phrase bolt upright)

Word Origin for bolt

Old English bolt arrow; related to Old High German bolz bolt for a crossbow




/ (bəʊlt) /

verb (tr)

to pass (flour, a powder, etc) through a sieve
to examine and separate
Derived Formsbolter or boulter, noun

Word Origin for bolt

C13: from Old French bulter, probably of Germanic origin; compare Old High German būtil bag

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 shoot one's bolt
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with shoot one's bolt

shoot one's bolt

Also, shoot one's wad. Do all within one's power; exhaust one's resources or capabilities. For example, They were asking for more ideas but Bob had shot his bolt and couldn't come up with any, or Don't shoot your wad with that article or you won't have any material for the sequels. The first expression comes from archery and referred to using up all of one's bolts (short, heavy arrows fired with a crossbow); it was a proverb by the 1200s. The colloquial variant, dating from about 1900, comes from gambling and refers to spending all of a wad of rolled-up banknotes. Also see shoot the works.


In addition to the idioms beginning with bolt

  • bolt from the blue, a
  • bolt upright

also see:

  • nuts and bolts
  • shoot one's bolt
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.