under the gun

under the gun


  1. a weapon consisting of a metal tube, with mechanical attachments, from which projectiles are shot by the force of an explosive; a piece of ordnance.
  2. any portable firearm, as a rifle, shotgun, or revolver.
  3. a long-barreled cannon having a relatively flat trajectory.
  4. any device for shooting something under pressure: a paint gun; a staple gun.
  5. Slang. a person whose profession is killing; professional killer: a gangland gun.
  6. British. a member of a shooting party.
  7. electron gun.
  8. Slang.
    1. (esp. in baseball) a player’s throwing arm.
    2. guns,the biceps or triceps of the arms: his big, muscular guns.

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

  1. to shoot with a gun (often followed by down): The guards gunned down the fleeing convict.
  2. to cause (an engine, vehicle, aircraft, etc.) to increase in speed very quickly by increasing the supply of fuel.

verb (used without object), gunned, gun·ning.

  1. to hunt with a gun.
  2. to shoot with a gun.

Verb Phrases

  1. gun for,
    1. to seek with intent to harm or kill.
    2. to seek; try earnestly to obtain: He is gunning for a raise.


  1. give the gun, Slang. to put into motion or speed up: We gave the motor the gun and drove off.
  2. jump the gun, Slang.
    1. to begin a race before the starting signal.
    2. to begin prematurely; act too hastily.
  3. spike someone’s guns, to frustrate or prevent someone from accomplishing a plan: Our competitors planned a surprise reduction in their rates, but we discovered it and were able to spike their guns.
  4. stick to one’s guns, to maintain one’s position in the face of opposition; stand firm: They stuck to their guns and refused to submit.Also stand by one’s guns.
  5. under the gun, under pressure, as to meet a deadline or solve a problem: We’re all under the gun with these new sales quotas.


    1. a weapon with a metallic tube or barrel from which a missile is discharged, usually by force of an explosion. It may be portable or mounted. In a military context the term applies specifically to a flat-trajectory artillery piece
    2. (as modifier)a gun barrel
  1. the firing of a gun as a salute or signal, as in military ceremonial
  2. a member of or a place in a shooting party or syndicate
  3. any device used to project something under pressurea grease gun; a spray gun
  4. US slang an armed criminal; gunman
  5. Australian and NZ slang
    1. an expert
    2. (as modifier)a gun shearer; a gun batsman
  6. go great guns slang to act or function with great speed, intensity, etc
  7. jump the gun or beat the gun
    1. (of a runner, etc) to set off before the starting signal is given
    2. informalto act prematurely
  8. spike someone’s guns See spike 1 (def. 15)
  9. stick to one’s guns informal to maintain one’s opinions or intentions in spite of opposition

verb guns, gunning or gunned

  1. (when tr, often foll by down) to shoot (someone) with a gun
  2. (tr) to press hard on the accelerator of (an engine)to gun the engine of a car
  3. (intr) to hunt with a gun

n.mid-14c., gunne “an engine of war that throws rocks, arrows or other missiles,” probably a shortening of woman’s name Gunilda, found in Middle English gonnilde “cannon” and in an Anglo-Latin reference to a specific gun from a 1330 munitions inventory of Windsor Castle (“…una magna balista de cornu quae Domina Gunilda …”), from Old Norse Gunnhildr, woman’s name, from gunnr + hildr, both meaning “war, battle.” First element from PIE *gwhen- “to strike, kill” (see bane); for second, cf. Hilda. The identification of women with powerful weapons is common historically (cf. Big Bertha, Brown Bess, Mons Meg, etc.); meaning shifted with technology, from cannons to firearms as they developed 15c. Great guns (cannon, etc.) distinguished from small guns (such as muskets) from c.1400. Applied to pistols and revolvers after 1744. Meaning “thief, rascal” is from 1858. Son of a gun is originally nautical. To jump the gun (1912, American English) is from track and field. Guns “a woman’s breasts” (especially if prominent) attested by 2006. v.“to shoot with a gun,” 1620s, from gun (n.); the sense of “to accelerate an engine” is from 1930, from earlier phrase to give (something) the gun. Related: Gunned; gunning. Under pressure to solve a problem or meet a deadline, as in The reporter was under the gun for that article on taxes. This idiom alludes to a gun being pointed at a person to force him or her to act. [Colloquial; c. 1900] In addition to the idiom beginning with gun

  • gun for
  • gung ho
  • also see:

  • at gunpoint
  • big cheese (gun)
  • great guns
  • hired gun
  • hold a gun to someone’s head
  • jump the gun
  • smoking gun
  • son of a bitch (gun)
  • stick to one’s guns
  • under the gun
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