Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shoot v.

1. in sexual senses.

(a) [late 16C+] to ejaculate; thus shooting n.

(b) [mid-17C+] of a man, to have sexual intercourse (with).

(c) [late 19C] to have a wet dream.

(d) [2000s] (US prison) to have sex with an effeminate, younger male prisoner.

2. in senses of movement.

(a) [19C+] to move, to travel; usu. as shoot along, shoot down, shoot for etc.

(b) [mid-19C+] (also shoot it) to leave, esp. as imper. (cf. shoot off v. (1)).

(c) [late 19C+] (also shoot to) to send; to convey; to drive.

(d) [20C+] to hurry someone along, to send someone quickly to a place.

(e) [1910s–50s] as an order, to fetch, to bring, to send.

(f) [1990s+] to promote, to propel.

3. in gambling senses.

(a) [mid-19C–1910s] to (make a) bet.

(b) [1920s+] to throw dice; thus shooter n.

4. in senses of consumption or use.

(a) [late 19C–1950s] to get rid of, to expend.

(b) [1900s–20s] (Aus./US) to give, to pay for.

(c) [1900s–60s] to perform, to do.

(d) [1900s–70s] to consume.

5. [late 19C+] (also shoot it (out)) to speak, to sing; to impart.

6. in drug uses.


(a) to inject (oneself with) a narcotic; usu. in comb. with the drug, e.g. shoot smack, to inject heroin; shoot coke, to inject cocaine; thus shooting n.

(b) to inject someone else with a narcotic.

7. [1920s] (US Und., also shoot it) to use explosive to open a safe.

8. [1950s] to cheat someone.

Meaning to speak

In phrases

shoot a good shot (v.)

[1970s+] (US black) to have a sophisticated verbal wit; to defeat someone in a verbal contest, e.g. dozens n.

shoot a paper-bolt (v.)

[1910s–20s] to circulate a false or dubious rumour.

shoot jokes (on) (v.)

[1970s+] (US black) to belittle, to tease aggressively.

shoot off (v.)

see separate entry.

shoot on (v.) [1960s+] (US black)

1. to mock, to tease, to discredit.

2. to talk seductively to.

shoot one’s best mack (v.) [mack n.2 (2)]

[1970s+] (US black) to make an all-out effort at seduction by one’s persuasive conversation.

shoot one’s gab (v.)

see under gab n.1

shoot straight (v.) (also shoot square)

[1910s+] to talk or behave openly, honestly or candidly.

In phrases

shoot the breeze (v.) (also shoot the jive) [jive n.1 (2)]

[1930s+] (orig. US) to gossip, to talk idly; thus breeze shooter n.

shoot the con (v.) (also shoot con) [con n.1 (9)]

[20C+] (US tramp) to talk nonsense.

shoot the gift (v.) [SE gift of the gab] [1990s+] (US black)

1. to gossip, to talk idly.

2. to rap well.

shoot the regular (v.) [shit n. (4a) is unspoken]

[1970s+] (US black) to chatter on in the usual, predictable manner.

shoot (the) shit (v.) [shit n. (4a)]

[1940s+] to gossip, to chat.

Meaning to ejaculate or have sexual intercourse

In phrases

shoot a bishop (v.) (also shoot the bishop) [bishop n.2 (2e)]

[late 19C+] to have a nocturnal emission, a ‘wet dream’.

shoot in the bush (v.) (also shoot over the stubble) [stubble n.]

[18C–19C] to ejaculate prematurely, and outside the vagina.

shoot in the tail (v.) [mid-19C+]

1. to have anal intercourse with [tail n. (1)].

2. to copulate [tail n. (2)].

shoot one’s bolt (v.) [SE bolt as literary euph. for penis]

1. [mid-15C-mid-17C; 1940s+] to ejaculate, usu. prematurely .

2. see also SE phrs. below.

shoot one’s load (v.)

see under load n.

shoot one’s milt (v.) [SE milt, seed]

[mid-19C–1910s] to ejaculate.

shoot one’s roe (v.) [SE roe, seed]

[mid-19C–1900s] to ejaculate.

shoot the cat (v.) [the penis (i.e. the gun n.1 (2)) shoots the cat n.1 (2a), i.e. pubic hair]

1. [late 19C+] to have sexual intercourse.

2. see also SE phrs. below.

shoot the owl (v.) [SE owl as synon. for the pubic hair]

[1900s] (US) to ejaculate outside one’s partner’s body as a crude form of contraception.

shoot white (v.) [the colour of semen]

[late 19C] to ejaculate.

Other uses

shoot a pete (v.) [pete n.1 (1)]

[1920s] (US Und.) to break into a safe using explosives.

shoot it (v.)

1. see sense 2b above.

2. see sense 7 above.

shoot it (out) (v.)

see sense 5 above.

shoot over (v.)

to go (quickly) to a place.

shoot to (v.)

see sense 2c above.

will you shoot?

[1900s–50s] (Aus.) will you pay for a drink?

SE in slang uses

In compounds

shoot-out (n.)

1. [1930s+] a gun battle.

2. [1970s] a decisive confrontation.

In phrases

I’ll be shot (if) (also I’m shot if, may I be shot, shot if)

[mid-18C–1920s] a strong expression of denial or refusal.

I shot him lightly and he died politely

[1930s–50s] (US black) a phr. implying that the speaker has had the better of an opponent, verbally or physically.

on the shoot [the equation of sex and violence]

[late 19C–1900s] (Aus./US) involved in fighting, warfare.

shoot a bunny (v.)

[2000s] (N.Z.) to break wind.

shoot a butt (v.) [butt n.1 (2a)]

[1910s–30s] (US) to extinguish a cigarette.

shoot a dog (v.)

[1900s] (US) to defecate.

shoot a moon (v.)

see under moon n.

shoot at (v.)

[1950s–60s] to make (sexual) advances towards.

shoot cuffs (v.) [SAmE cuffs, trouser turn-ups (UK)]

[1990s+] (US black) to grab someone’s legs and bring them down, as part of a fight.

shoot (dead) (v.)

[late 19C] (Aus.) to dismiss from a job.

shoot down (v.) (also shoot down in flames)

1. [1940s+] to reject an invitation to dance or go for a date.

2. [1940s+] to humiliate, to ridicule.

3. [1950s+] to reject a line of argument, to overrule an opinion.

4. [1960s+] to place at a disadvantage.

5. [1960s+] (US prison) to reject a parole application.

shoot-’em-up (n.) [the predominant on-screen/on-page activity]

1. [1930s+] (orig. US) a Hollywood Western film.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

3. [1960s] (US, also shootum) a ‘Western’ book or short story.

shoot eyes (v.)

[1970s+] (US gay) to flirt; to stare or glower.

shoot for (v.)

[1910s+] to aim for, to target; often as shooting for, e.g. he’s got 50 runs and now he’s shooting for a century; thus shooter n., one who aims at something.

shoot from the hip (v.) [Western film imagery]

[1930s+] (orig. US) to attack a problem head-on, to be a tough, purposeful performer; also attrib.

shoot in (v.) [SE shoot in, to throw in]

[1910s+] (Aus.) to put in prison; usu. as shot in, imprisoned.

shoot into the brown (v.) [in rifle practice the outermost part of the target, denoting a ‘miss’, is brown; but note shooting jargon into the brown, an indiscriminate blast into the heart of a covey of passing birds. By extension this was used by sporting officers of firing into a large group of advancing (brown-uniformed) troops]

[late 19C–1910s] (orig. milit.) to fail.

shoot London Bridge (v.) [? a nonce usage in Ned Ward, London Bridge (1699), punningly describing a ‘buttocking brimstone’ who could ‘show you how the Watermen shoot London Bridge or how the lawyers go to Westminster’]

[early 18C] to have sexual intercourse.

shoot off (v.)

see separate entry.

shoot one’s best shot (v.)

see under shot n.1

shoot one’s bolt (v.)

1. [late 16C+] to give everything one has, to be incapable of further effort.

2. [1950s] (S.Afr., also shoot the bolt) to run off.

3. [1960s] (Aus.) to make a confession.

4. see also sl. phrs. above.

shoot one’s cuff(s) (v.) (also shoot one’s linen) [the ‘shooting’ of the cuffs – making them project fashionably beyond the jacket sleeves – that is indulged in by the well-dressed]

[late 19C+] to dress up as smartly as one can, or generally present oneself in the most positive way possible.

shoot oneself in the foot (v.)

[20C+] (orig. US) to blunder so that one harms oneself or exposes oneself to further hardship.

shoot one’s star (v.)

1. [late 19C–1900s] to die.

2. [1970s] (US black) senses relating to the anus, based on the shape of the SE star.

(a) to perform anal intercourse.

(b) to arrest a homosexual.

shoot someone out (v.)

[1960s] (US Und.) to prepare someone for a given occupation.

In phrases

shoot the boots off (v.)

[20C+] (Ulster) to wipe out, lit. or fig.

shoot the cat (v.) (also shoot a cat)

1. [late 18C–mid-19C] to vomit [var. on whip the cat v. (3)].

2. see also sl. phrs. above.

shoot the chimney (v.) [shoot, to discard, to get rid of + ? SE chimney to mean throat]

[late 19C] (US) to be quiet, to stop talking.

shoot the crow (v.) [ety. unknown]

1. [19C–1930s] to leave without paying.

2. [1960s+] (Scot.) to leave; craw is Scot. pron.

shoot the curve (v.) [? fig. use of SE shoot the curve, to go round a bend fast, but why?]

1. [1930s] (US prison) to negotiate privileges, esp. a drug supply.

2. [1930s–50s] (US drugs) to buy narcotics.

shoot the gulf (v.) [? according to Daniel Defoe, A Voyage Round the World, 1725: ‘Such a mighty and valuable thing also was the passing this strait [the Straits of Magellan] that Sir Francis Drake’s going through it gave birth to that famous old wives’ saying viz., that Sir Francis Drake shot the gulf; [...] as if there had been but one gulf in the world’]

[mid-17C–mid-18C] to succeed in a very hard task, to achieve the impossible; given sexual context cite 1645 suggests a double entendre on gulf n. (1)

shoot the lights out (v.) [fig. marksmanship]

[20C+] (US) to excel, to perform outstandingly.

shoot the marbles from all sides of the ring (v.)

[1930s–40s] (US black) to be in a position to take action.

shoot the pill (v.) (also shoot the peel) [pill n. (1g)]

[1980s+] (US black/campus) to shoot baskets, to play a pick-up game of basketball.

shoot the thrill (v.)

[1970s] (US black) to lead a promiscuous and varied sex life.

shoot the willie (v.) [? the single finger represents a willie n.5 ]

[1960s] (US campus) to make a derisory, insulting gesture by raising the middle finger.

shoot the works (v.) [works, the n.] (US)

1. [1920s] to vomit.

2. [1910s+] (also shoot the roll, …wad) to commit oneself absolutely, to make every effort no matter what the cost.

3. [1920s+] to make a full confession; to speak candidly.

4. [1930s] to die.

5. [1930s] to have an orgasm.

shoot through (v.)

[1940s+] (Aus./N.Z.) to leave, to exit quickly; in milit. context, to go absent without leave.

shoot through the grease (v.)

[1950s–60s] (US black/campus) to let down, to betray, to deceive, to victimize.

shoot to kill (v.)

[20C+] to aim ruthlessly for a goal without reservation or compromise.

shoot up

see separate entries.

In exclamations