noun (usually used with a singular verb)

  1. the science or study of the motion of projectiles, as bullets, shells, or bombs.
  2. the art or science of designing projectiles for maximum flight performance.


  1. (functioning as singular) the study of the flight dynamics of projectiles, either through the interaction of the forces of propulsion, the aerodynamics of the projectile, atmospheric resistance, and gravity (exterior ballistics), or through these forces along with the means of propulsion, and the design of the propelling weapon and projectile (interior ballistics)

1753, “art of throwing; science of projectiles,” with -ics + Latin ballista “ancient military machine for hurling stones,” from Greek ballistes, from ballein “to throw, to throw so as to hit,” also in a looser sense, “to put, place, lay;” from PIE root *gwele- “to throw, reach,” in extended senses “to pierce” (cf. Sanskrit apa-gurya “swinging,” balbaliti “whirls, twirls;” Greek bole “a throw, beam, ray,” belemnon “dart, javelin,” belone “needle”). Here, too, probably belongs Greek ballizein “to dance,” literally “to throw one’s body,” ancient Greek dancing being highly athletic.

  1. The scientific study of the characteristics of projectiles, such as bullets or missiles, and the way they move in flight.

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