[ shrap-nl ]
/ ˈʃræp nl /


  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.
shell fragments.

Origin of shrapnel

1800–10; named after Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), English army officer, its inventor Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shrapnel

British Dictionary definitions for shrapnel


/ (ˈʃræpnəl) /


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

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper