1. a smoothbore gun for firing small shots to kill birds and small quadrupeds, though often used with buckshot to kill larger animals.
  2. Football. an offensive formation, designed primarily for passing situations, in which the backfield is spread out with the quarterback positioned a few yards behind the center and the other backs, as potential pass receivers, positioned as slotbacks or flankers.


  1. of, pertaining to, used in, or carried out with a shotgun: a shotgun murder; shotgun pellets.
  2. covering a wide area in an irregularly effective manner without concern for details or particulars; tending to be all-inclusive, nonselective, and haphazard; indiscriminate in choice and indifferent to specific results: He favored the shotgun approach in his political attacks.
  3. seeking a desired result through the use or inclusion of a wide variety of elements.
  4. having all the rooms opening one into the next in a line from front to back: shotgun apartment; shotgun cottage.
  5. gained or characterized by coercive methods.

verb (used with object), shot·gunned, shot·gun·ning.

  1. to fire a shotgun at.
  1. ride shotgun,
    1. (formerly) to ride atop a stagecoach as a shotgun-bearing guard.
    2. to protect or keep a watchful eye on something: riding shotgun over the nation’s economy.


    1. a shoulder firearm with unrifled bore designed for the discharge of small shot at short range and used mainly for hunting small game
    2. (as modifier)shotgun fire
  1. American football an offensive formation in which the quarterback lines up for a snap unusually far behind the line of scrimmage


  1. mainly US involving coercion or duressa shotgun merger
  2. mainly US involving or relying on speculative suggestions, etca shotgun therapy

verb -guns, -gunning or -gunned

  1. (tr) US to shoot or threaten with or as if with a shotgun

1821, American English, from shot (n.) in the sense of “lead in small pellets” (1770) + gun (n.). As distinguished from a rifle, which fires bullets. Shotgun wedding first attested 1903, American English.

In addition to the idiom beginning with shotgun

, also see

  • ride shotgun


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