[ shot-guhn ]
See synonyms for: shotgunshotgunnedshotgunning on

  1. a smoothbore gun for firing small shot to kill birds and small quadrupeds, though often used with buckshot to kill larger animals.

  2. Football. an offensive formation, designed primarily for passing situations, in which the backfield is spread out with the quarterback positioned a few yards behind the center and the other backs, as potential pass receivers, positioned as slotbacks or flankers.

  1. of, pertaining to, used in, or carried out with a shotgun: a shotgun murder;shotgun pellets.

  2. covering a wide area in an irregularly effective manner without concern for details or particulars; tending to be all-inclusive, nonselective, and haphazard; indiscriminate in choice and indifferent to specific results: He favored the shotgun approach in his political attacks.

  1. seeking a desired result through the use or inclusion of a wide variety of elements.

  2. having all the rooms opening one into the next in a line from front to back: shotgun apartment;shotgun cottage.

  3. gained or characterized by coercive methods.

verb (used with object),shot·gunned, shot·gun·ning.
  1. to fire a shotgun at.

  2. Slang. to drink (something, especially a beer) quickly, by puncturing a hole in the bottom of a can, placing one's mouth over the hole, and then opening the top of the can slightly, causing the liquid to drain down one's throat: I saw him shotgun a beer at the party last night.

Idioms about shotgun

  1. call shotgun, to preemptively claim the privilege of sitting in the front passenger seat of a vehicle: When I was a kid, calling shotgun was an important part of the drive to school.

  2. ride shotgun,

    • to ride in the front passenger seat of a car:The ride-along program lets you ride shotgun in a racing car with a professional driver.

    • to protect or keep a watchful eye on something: The treasurer is riding shotgun over the nation's economy.

    • (formerly) to ride atop a stagecoach as a shotgun-bearing guard.

Origin of shotgun

An Americanism dating back to 1770–80; shot1 + gun1

Words Nearby shotgun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use shotgun in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for shotgun


/ (ˈʃɒtˌɡʌn) /

    • a shoulder firearm with unrifled bore designed for the discharge of small shot at short range and used mainly for hunting small game

    • (as modifier): shotgun fire

  1. American football an offensive formation in which the quarterback lines up for a snap unusually far behind the line of scrimmage

  1. mainly US involving coercion or duress: a shotgun merger

  2. mainly US involving or relying on speculative suggestions, etc: a shotgun therapy

verb-guns, -gunning or -gunned
  1. (tr) US to shoot or threaten with or as if with a shotgun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with shotgun


In addition to the idiom beginning with shotgun

, also see

  • ride shotgun


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.