Definition of gun in English:

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Pronunciation: /ɡən/


1A weapon incorporating a metal tube from which bullets, shells, or other missiles are propelled by explosive force, typically making a characteristic loud, sharp noise.
Example sentences
  • Most of the shells fired by artillery guns were high explosive shells which could throw shrapnel over a wide distance in the trenches.
  • The Warrior adapts to a range of roles with weapon fits ranging from machine pistols to 90 mm guns, mortars and missile systems.
  • Another major difference is the shift from guns to missiles as the primary weapon.
firearm, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, carbine, automatic, handgun, semiautomatic, machine gun, Uzi;
informal piece, gat, heater
1.1A device for discharging something (e.g., insecticide, grease, or electrons) in a required direction.
Example sentences
  • Irrigation is available from a borehole and water is applied with a rain gun as required.
  • At a public hearing last week, speakers against the proposal outnumbered the supporters and criticized the use of traps and bolt guns as cruel.
  • We continue this Thurs evening, Nov 20, with a further portrait session, this time using members' own flash guns.
1.2A starting pistol used in track and field events.
Example sentences
  • On the extreme left, crouching low, its arms hanging near its feet, was an ape; it looked intent, like an athlete waiting for the gun to go off.
  • The tinkle of the bell as the door opens pistols me as though it were a starting gun.
  • Once they reveal who's in, the starting gun cracks on the biggest American sweepstake, with every office of two people or more stashing a few bucks on one of the entrants.
1.3The firing of a piece of artillery as a salute or signal: the boom of the one o’clock gun echoed across the river
More example sentences
  • A normal royal gun salute is 21 guns, but that was increased to 41, because it was fired from a royal residence.
  • Alighting from the plane at an air base near Islamabad, Zhu was received by Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf as 19 guns boomed to salute him.
  • Omitting the first few isotopes in the decay series would be like removing the first few guns in our ‘salute’.
1.4chiefly North American A gunman: a hired gun
1.5 (guns) nautical slang, dated Used as a nickname for a ship’s gunnery officer.
2 (guns) informal Muscular arms; well-developed biceps muscles: it’s encouraging to note that Schwarzenegger wasn’t born with massive guns
More example sentences
  • Saturday brought out the men, and Bentson easily took first place by curling 85 pounds for 63 reps with his massive guns.
  • Keep in mind that massive guns, huge pecs, and rock-hard delts are just some of the benefits of using these products in your program!
  • Like new students of body-building, he is so focused on getting big guns and eye-popping pecs that he forgets all about his lower half.

verb (guns, gunning, gunned)

[with object]
1 (gun someone down) Shoot someone with a gun: they were gunned down by masked snipers
More example sentences
  • While we're talking about Syria, there is a report today that a Hamas leader in Damascus was gunned down, was killed.
  • But we're not sure of the circumstances, whether they were - whether they were killed in the firefight or whether they were gunned down in some other kind of more devious ambush.
  • If they did not ‘disappear’ it was because they had been gunned down in public or tortured and killed.
2 informal Cause (an engine) to race: as Neil gunned the engine, the boat jumped forward
More example sentences
  • He brakes once more, guns the engine a final time - and we race off across the roof of the Big Top, the floor dizzyingly far below, and come to a screaming stop, high above the ground on the far side.
  • He guns the engines, only to realise that the plane is too big to get through the hangar doors.
  • Then he was back in the cockpit, gunning the engine, pointing the nose up and soaring over the telephone wires.
2.1Accelerate (a vehicle): he gunned the car away from the curb
More example sentences
  • ‘It is something like gunning a car constantly,’ she says.
  • I couldn't get comfortable, the dreams were bad, my neighbor was gunning his motorcycle again.
  • He had already gunned the little car; at once it lost traction on the gravel.



big gun

Pronunciation: /ˈbiɡ ˌɡən/
informal An important or powerful person: the first baseman and the center fielder were the big guns of that team

go great guns

informal Proceed forcefully, vigorously, or successfully: the film industry has been going great guns recently
More example sentences
  • Gala's early attempts at intimidating the ‘city boys’ went great guns, with feet raking aplenty in the rucks.
  • Our double-act show went great guns, and we had a few walkouts.
  • She's going great guns, building night and day; making things work that just shouldn't, until she tells the principal what she's doing in an effort to explain skipping class.

jump the gun

informal Act before the proper time.
Example sentences
  • There's a lot of sense in what he says, but I think he jumps the gun on this one.
  • The atmosphere is tense, police and coastguards are on hand to make sure nobody jumps the gun.
  • It's only been here a week and when we got it I thought I was jumping the gun, but it's so cheerful and pretty and elegant in it's dark green velvety majesty, turning one end of my livingroom into the dark, mysterious winter forest.
act prematurely, act too soon, be too/overly hasty, be precipitate, be rash
informal be ahead of oneself

stick to one's guns

informal Refuse to compromise or change, despite criticism: we have stuck to our guns on that issue
More example sentences
  • Labour MPs determined to shoot down controversial plans for variable university top-up fees are poised to stick to their guns, despite last-ditch compromise proposals from the Government.
  • Despite the criticism, the archbishop stuck to his guns.
  • She is sticking to her guns and point blank refusing to send him anywhere else.

top gun

A (or the) most important person: the top guns in contention for the coveted post of chairman
More example sentences
  • However when it comes to a knockout competition, there are always surprises and as always some of the top guns will be making their exit in the opening rounds with last year's finalists Desmonds and Duagh meeting in the first round.
  • And after savouring the taste of a showdown with the Premiership's top guns in the Worthington Cup, Cox is ready for more challenges in what he described as ‘the greatest cup in the world’.
  • The important thing to remember is that while the men are out there brimming with testosterone, striving to be top guns, you can set off your beauty against some of the most glorious vistas nature has to offer.

under the gun

North American informal Under great pressure: manufacturers are under the gun to offer alternatives
More example sentences
  • It never fails when you make plans to tackle something, or are under the gun with pressure, something or everything jumps in your way trying to prevent you from making that goal.
  • Sources say the Pentagon is under the gun to trim $10 billion from next year's budget, and as much as $60 billion in defense spending over the next six years.
  • Testing has changed the curriculum, because teachers know they are under the gun and administrators know their schools are going to be ranked and that parents look at those scores when choosing schools.

Phrasal verbs

gun for

Pursue or act against (someone) with hostility: the Republican candidate was gunning for his rival over campaign finances
More example sentences
  • Banner's in more trouble than usual, as dead enemies are gunning for him, and new, mysterious ones are busy setting him up for murder.
  • Down below, the suspicion from an offended conservative is that I'm gunning for conservatives.
  • I still think he's kind of cool, but that was really uncalled for, as half the field was still gunning for him.
1.1Seek out or strive for (something) determinedly: he had been gunning for a place in the squad
More example sentences
  • The party is gunning for at least 40 seats, which could make the Congress depend on it for forming the government.
  • But to fair (and I have no idea if this is what they were gunning for, but I'm guessing no), this album is pretty depressing, precisely because it's so naively bright and rosy.
  • An impulse buy, claims the 30-year-old, but the car met the ‘suitably obnoxious’ criteria that he was gunning for - and it allowed him to indulge his love for driving fast.



Example sentences
  • Kahan and Braman argue that people on each side of the gun debate view the risks associated with guns differently: One fears being a victim of gun crime, while the other fears being a gunless victim.


Middle English gunne, gonne, perhaps from a nickname for the Scandinavian name Gunnhildr, from gunnr + hildr, both meaning 'war'.

  • The first device to be called a gun in English may have been a kind of catapult used in medieval warfare to hurl rocks or arrows at the enemy. It is possible that the term may have derived from a pet form of the Scandinavian name Gunnhildr (from gunnr and hildr, both meaning ‘war’). Giving female personal names to weapons has been a common practice over the centuries. Examples include Mons Meg, a 15th-century cannon in Edinburgh Castle; Brown Bess, the nickname for a musket used by the British army in the 18th century; and Big Bertha, a large German gun used in the First World War.

    If someone refuses to compromise or change, we can say that they are sticking to their guns. This comes from the battlefield, where sticking to your guns meant remaining at your post despite being under constant bombardment. To be gunning for someone is to be looking for a chance to attack them. In the 17th century, though, to go gunning was to go hunting. Gunboat diplomacy is foreign policy supported by the use or threat of military force. It is first mentioned in the 1920s, in reference to US policy in China.

Words that rhyme with gun

begun, bun, done, Donne, dun, fine-spun, forerun, fun, Gunn, hon, Hun, none, nun, one, one-to-one, outdone, outgun, outrun, plus-one, pun, run, shun, son, spun, stun, sun, ton, tonne, tun, underdone, Verdun, won

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: gun

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