Saturday, August 03, 2013


Dan from Lake Charlevoix asked about the word potshot. We tend to use it in a figurative
sense: a verbal attack or criticism, especially one which is opportunistic and perhaps not deserved.

But it started with literal meanings based on physical actions. Here are some varieties over the years.
  • a shot fired from a cannon.
  • a shot made at an animal or bird with the aim of killing it purely for food (for the cooking pot), without regard for the rules and conventions of sport.
  • a shot aimed at a person who happens to be within easy reach.
  • a random attempt.
  • a speculative or opportunistic shot at goal by an individual player.

Potshot is related to “cheap shot” and “shooting fish in a barrel.”

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

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