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See more synonyms for shrapnel on Thesaurus.com
  1. Military.
    1. a hollow projectile containing bullets or the like and a bursting charge, designed to explode before reaching the target, and to set free a shower of missiles.
    2. such projectiles collectively.
  2. shell fragments.
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Origin of shrapnel

1800–10; named after Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), English army officer, its inventor
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for shrapnel

armament, bomb, bullet, cartridge, rocket, materiel, missile, chemical, explosive, shrapnel, torpedo, gunpowder, ammo, napalm, shell, shot, fuse, grenade, charge

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British Dictionary definitions for shrapnel


    1. a projectile containing a number of small pellets or bullets exploded before impact
    2. such projectiles collectively
  1. fragments from this or any other type of shell
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Word Origin for shrapnel

C19: named after H. Shrapnel (1761–1842), English army officer, who invented it
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 shrapnel


1806, from Gen. Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842), who invented a type of exploding, fragmenting shell when he was a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery during the Peninsular War. The invention consisted of a hollow cannon ball, filled with shot, which burst in mid-air; his name for it was spherical case ammunition. Sense of "shell fragments" is first recorded 1940. The surname is attested from 13c., and is believed to be a metathesized form of Charbonnel, a diminutive form of Old French charbon "charcoal," in reference to complexion, hair color, or some other quality.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper