1. a movable bar or rod that when slid into a socket fastens a door, gate, etc.
  2. the part of a lock that is shot from and drawn back into the case, as by the action of the key.
  3. any of several types of strong fastening rods, pins, or screws, usually threaded to receive a nut.
  4. a sudden dash, run, flight, or escape.
  5. a sudden desertion from a meeting, political party, social movement, etc.
  6. a length of woven goods, especially as it comes on a roll from the loom.
  7. a roll of wallpaper.
  8. Bookbinding. the three edges of a folded sheet that must be cut so that the leaves can be opened.
  9. a rod, bar, or plate that closes the breech of a breechloading rifle, especially a sliding rod or bar that shoves a cartridge into the firing chamber as it closes the breech.
  10. a jet of water, molten glass, etc.
  11. an arrow, especially a short, heavy one for a crossbow.
  12. a shaft of lightning; thunderbolt.
  13. a length of timber to be cut into smaller pieces.
  14. a slice from a log, as a short, round piece of wood used for a chopping block.

verb (used with object)

  1. to fasten with or as with a bolt.
  2. to discontinue support of or participation in; break with: to bolt a political party.
  3. to shoot or discharge (a missile), as from a crossbow or catapult.
  4. to utter hastily; say impulsively; blurt out.
  5. to swallow (one’s food or drink) hurriedly: She bolted her breakfast and ran to school.
  6. to make (cloth, wallpaper, etc.) into bolts.
  7. Fox Hunting. (of hounds) to force (a fox) into the open.

verb (used without object)

  1. to make a sudden, swift dash, run, flight, or escape; spring away suddenly: The rabbit bolted into its burrow.
  2. to break away, as from one’s political party.
  3. to eat hurriedly or without chewing.
  4. Horticulture. to produce flowers or seeds prematurely.


  1. Archaic. with sudden meeting or collision; suddenly.
  1. bolt from the blue, a sudden and entirely unforeseen event: His decision to leave college was a bolt from the blue for his parents.Also bolt out of the blue.
  2. bolt upright, stiffly upright; rigidly straight: The explosive sound caused him to sit bolt upright in his chair.
  3. shoot one’s bolt, Informal. to make an exhaustive effort or expenditure: The lawyer shot his bolt the first day of the trial and had little to say thereafter.

verb (used with object)

  1. to sift through a cloth or sieve.
  2. to examine or search into, as if by sifting.


  1. Robert (Oxton). 1924–95, British playwright. His plays include A Man for All Seasons (1960) and he also wrote a number of screenplays
  2. Usain (juːˈseɪn). born 1986, Jamaican athlete: winner of the 100 metres and the 200 metres in the 2008 Olympic Games, setting world records at both distances


  1. a bar that can be slid into a socket to lock a door, gate, etc
  2. a bar or rod that forms part of a locking mechanism and is moved by a key or a knob
  3. a metal rod or pin that has a head at one end and a screw thread at the other to take a nut
  4. a sliding bar in a breech-loading firearm that ejects the empty cartridge, replaces it with a new one, and closes the breech
  5. a flash of lightning
  6. a sudden start or movement, esp in order to escapethey made a bolt for the door
  7. US a sudden desertion, esp from a political party
  8. a roll of something, such as cloth, wallpaper, etc
  9. an arrow, esp for a crossbow
  10. printing a folded edge on a sheet of paper that is removed when cutting to size
  11. mechanical engineering short for expansion bolt
  12. a bolt from the blue a sudden, unexpected, and usually unwelcome event
  13. shoot one’s bolt to exhaust one’s effortthe runner had shot his bolt


  1. (tr) to secure or lock with or as with a bolt or boltsbolt your doors
  2. (tr) to eat hurriedlydon’t bolt your food
  3. (intr; usually foll by from or out) to move or jump suddenlyhe bolted from the chair
  4. (intr) (esp of a horse) to start hurriedly and run away without warning
  5. (tr) to roll or make (cloth, wallpaper, etc) into bolts
  6. US to desert (a political party, etc)
  7. (intr) (of cultivated plants) to produce flowers and seeds prematurely
  8. (tr) to cause (a wild animal) to leave its lair; startterriers were used for bolting rats


  1. stiffly, firmly, or rigidly (archaic except in the phrase bolt upright)

verb (tr)

  1. to pass (flour, a powder, etc) through a sieve
  2. to examine and separate

Old English bolt “short, stout arrow with a heavy head;” also “crossbow for throwing bolts,” from Proto-Germanic *bultas (cf. Old Norse bolti, Danish bolt, Dutch bout, German Bolzen), perhaps from PIE root *bheld- “to knock, strike” (cf. Lithuanian beldu “I knock,” baldas “pole for striking”).

Applied since Middle English to other short metal rods (especially those with knobbed ends). From the notion of an arrow’s flight comes the lightning bolt (1530s). A bolt of canvas (c.1400) was so called for its shape. Adverbial phrase bolt upright is from late 14c.


from bolt (n.) in its various senses; from a crossbow arrow’s quick flight comes the meaning “to spring, to make a quick start” (early 13c.). Via the notion of runaway horses, this came to mean “to leave suddenly” (early 19c.). Meaning “to gulp down food” is from 1794. The meaning “to secure by means of a bolt” is from 1580s. Related: Bolted; bolting.

In addition to the idioms beginning with bolt

  • bolt from the blue, a
  • bolt upright

also see:

  • nuts and bolts
  • shoot one’s bolt
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