Definition of gun in US English:



  • 1A weapon incorporating a metal tube from which bullets, shells, or other missiles are propelled by explosive force, typically making a characteristic loud, sharp noise.

    • ‘The missiles and guns on an aircraft present several hazards to personnel and equipment during loading and when power is applied to the aircraft.’
    • ‘Frank will have access to 18 separate weapons, ranging from pistols and rifles to submachine guns and shotguns.’
    • ‘Range threat systems simulate the tracking systems of enemy missiles and guns and are used to train pilots to evade the tracking systems.’
    • ‘The protrusions are massive guns and missiles - the metal monster is carrying enough artillery to level a small town.’
    • ‘The defence of coastal towns and installations has been a task for artillery for 500 years, and the characteristics of the gun have shaped the design of the fort.’
    • ‘It was normal gun with metal bullets, but the speed at which he pulled the trigger was amazing.’
    • ‘The threat from all types of firearms, be it a real gun, a replica weapon or an airgun is increasing and action must be taken now.’
    • ‘Most of the shells fired by artillery guns were high explosive shells which could throw shrapnel over a wide distance in the trenches.’
    • ‘Police, some walking arm-in-arm and others riding horseback down the city's streets, used tear gas and guns loaded with rubber bullets and bean bags.’
    • ‘They have high-speed capabilities, can reach Mach three, and are armed with only air-to-air missiles and guns.’
    • ‘The Warrior adapts to a range of roles with weapon fits ranging from machine pistols to 90 mm guns, mortars and missile systems.’
    • ‘Then, with a loud explosion, the gun fired, and smoke filled the tunnel.’
    • ‘There are a selection of rifles, submachine guns, heavy weapons, and pistols.’
    • ‘The police have been equipped with water cannon, attack dogs, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullet guns.’
    • ‘Weapons will primarily consist of pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and projectile launchers.’
    • ‘As silently as he possibly can, he fills his gun with bullets and revolves it, preparing to take aim.’
    • ‘In the course of the film there are lots of bullets, guns, explosions and general mess as supermarket shelves are shot to bits, although nobody appears to die.’
    • ‘They said they would conduct random checks of passengers' luggage to look for guns, sharp weapons or bomb materials.’
    • ‘Shotguns, air pistols, ball-bearing guns and a revolver with about 60 rounds of ammunition had been handed in to local police stations by Wednesday.’
    • ‘Another major difference is the shift from guns to missiles as the primary weapon.’
    firearm, weapon
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A device for discharging something (e.g., insecticide, grease, or electrons) in a required direction.
      • ‘Irrigation is available from a borehole and water is applied with a rain gun as required.’
      • ‘We continue this Thurs evening, Nov 20, with a further portrait session, this time using members' own flash guns.’
      • ‘At a public hearing last week, speakers against the proposal outnumbered the supporters and criticized the use of traps and bolt guns as cruel.’
    2. 1.2 A starting pistol used in track and field events.
      • ‘It will bring an end to the longest-running saga in the spirits sector but also fire the starting gun on another round of brand-swapping.’
      • ‘As the starting gun barked out the release of pent-up energy, each triathlete fought for his or her personal space in the sea of bodies.’
      • ‘On the extreme left, crouching low, its arms hanging near its feet, was an ape; it looked intent, like an athlete waiting for the gun to go off.’
      • ‘Open moor to a horse is as good as a starting gun: they know the places they usually gallop, and most will gallop them whether you like it or not.’
      • ‘The starting gun was sounded by Evan's grandfather James Tiernan.’
      • ‘The starting gun was sounded last week to launch the presidential election campaign in Chechnya.’
      • ‘The tinkle of the bell as the door opens pistols me as though it were a starting gun.’
      • ‘The race for the White House In just eight days, the starting gun will fire for America's presidential election 2000.’
      • ‘The starting gun may not have been fired officially, but the election is under way.’
      • ‘She would probably have won even more, but for being disqualified in 1995 for taking a step out of her lane just after the starting gun went.’
      • ‘The way-out wacky races with the finish line at the second Scottish parliament election on May 1 sees the starting gun fired with a busy September.’
      • ‘At drop off the teacher shoots a starting gun and I sprint from the building and peel out of the parking lot to go and do things.’
      • ‘The starting gun sends camels bolting forth in a graceful blur, then a long-stride gallop that is as precise as a quarter-horse trot.’
      • ‘No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.’
      • ‘Last Saturday, the first race under the new name took place at Sparrows Den, in West Wickham, with Will's mother Jan firing the starting gun.’
      • ‘The news was like a starting gun to the physics world.’
      • ‘The Resurrection was the starting gun and the return of Christ is the final whistle.’
      • ‘Once they reveal who's in, the starting gun cracks on the biggest American sweepstake, with every office of two people or more stashing a few bucks on one of the entrants.’
      • ‘It's as if we are waiting for a starting gun to signal us to go.’
      • ‘Fortunately, nations capable of running at the crack of the starting gun are providing the U.N. the time necessary to find its shoes.’
    3. 1.3 The firing of a piece of artillery as a salute or signal.
      ‘the boom of the one o'clock gun echoed across the river’
      • ‘Omitting the first few isotopes in the decay series would be like removing the first few guns in our ‘salute’.’
      • ‘A normal royal gun salute is 21 guns, but that was increased to 41, because it was fired from a royal residence.’
      • ‘Although more and more ships and boats were coming to anchor in the Huangpu, two old signal guns were still in use to manage the shipping so that boats could enter and leave the port in good order.’
      • ‘Alighting from the plane at an air base near Islamabad, Zhu was received by Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf as 19 guns boomed to salute him.’
    4. 1.4North American A gunman.
      ‘a hired gun’
      armed robber, hold-up man, bandit, gangster, terrorist, gunfighter
      View synonyms
    5. 1.5gunsnautical slang, dated Used as a nickname for a ship's gunnery officer.
  • 2gunsinformal Muscular arms; well-developed biceps muscles.

    ‘it's encouraging to note that Schwarzenegger wasn't born with massive guns’
    • ‘It's time to stop daydreaming and make those huge guns a reality!’
    • ‘Like new students of body-building, he is so focused on getting big guns and eye-popping pecs that he forgets all about his lower half.’
    • ‘When these two armed and dangerous men flex their guns, muscle meets cotton in a battle of supremacy, and the smart money is with the muscle.’
    • ‘Saturday brought out the men, and Bentson easily took first place by curling 85 pounds for 63 reps with his massive guns.’
    • ‘Keep in mind that massive guns, huge pecs, and rock-hard delts are just some of the benefits of using these products in your program!’
    • ‘He'll be flexing his guns alongside Mark Wahlberg in "Pain and Gain."’
    • ‘A successful competitive bodybuilder, the 6'1" 225-pounder relies on his symmetry and enormous guns come contest time.’
    • ‘In this manic pursuit of huge guns, way too many trainees neglect their forearms.’
    • ‘Everybod had their eyes riveted on his 22-inch guns.’
    • ‘Although most guys would be thrilled to have huge guns, for amateur body-builder Ron, his 23-inch arms were a curse in disguise.’


[with object]
  • 1gun someone downShoot someone with a gun.

    ‘they were gunned down by masked snipers’
    • ‘Despite the uniforms, even the knowledge of who these men are, they are gunned down without hesitation.’
    • ‘A policewoman was dead last night and another was seriously injured after they were gunned down during an armed robbery at a travel agents in Bradford.’
    • ‘The victims, both believed to be in their thirties, are thought to have been inside the premises when they were gunned down.’
    • ‘She was six years old when Lennon was gunned down.’
    • ‘Wire services reported that two policemen were gunned down in north Baghdad.’
    • ‘If they did not ‘disappear’ it was because they had been gunned down in public or tortured and killed.’
    • ‘The real-life criminal was gunned down as he sat in his car waiting at traffic lights in Ranelagh August 18, 1994.’
    • ‘Indeed, two of them were not even involved in the demonstrations that resulted in the tragedy but were peacefully walking across campus when they were gunned down.’
    • ‘It was also in this battle that Barayev was gunned down.’
    • ‘While we're talking about Syria, there is a report today that a Hamas leader in Damascus was gunned down, was killed.’
    • ‘Canada said good-bye this week to four brave men whose lives were only just beginning when they were gunned down in a senseless act of violence in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.’
    • ‘But we're not sure of the circumstances, whether they were - whether they were killed in the firefight or whether they were gunned down in some other kind of more devious ambush.’
    • ‘If the soul died when Marvin Gaye was gunned down by his father, then it was reborn in this generation of young hip hop-influenced musicians and vocalists.’
    • ‘One minute people were going about their everyday shopping, the next they were gunned down by lumbering mannequins with firearms concealed within their drop-down wrists.’
    • ‘Days later, Gregg was gunned down near Belfast docks as he returned from a Glasgow Rangers football match.’
    • ‘As far as she was concerned that was why they were gunned down in unexplained circumstances within a few days of each other.’
    • ‘The widow, whose husband Eddie was gunned down in the Moose Bar in 2000, revealed she was upset by the descriptions of her sons in some Sunday newspapers.’
    • ‘The fun stopped when his cousin Jesse was gunned down in 1994.’
    • ‘Chandra was gunned down as she entered her car in the car park of Langmore Health Clinic Foundation in Palmyra, San Fernando.’
    • ‘It is six months this week since her husband and soulmate Brian was brutally gunned down as he changed a tyre on his car at the Huddersfield garage where he worked.’
    shoot, shoot down, mow down, hit, wound, injure, cut down, bring down
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  • 2informal Cause (an engine) to race.

    ‘as Neil gunned the engine the boat jumped forward’
    • ‘He guns the engines, only to realise that the plane is too big to get through the hangar doors.’
    • ‘That afternoon, I must have driven the back roads for half an hour, and only after gunning the engine on the downhill stretch of Highway 10 and circling around our land on the gravel farm road did I remember Nate.’
    • ‘So this gentleman pulls up next to me, gunning his engine for all he's worth.’
    • ‘He gunned the engine and sped away from Darren's house.’
    • ‘Many of them, heedless of the no-wake zone that they were in, were gunning their engines, kicking up huge wakes as they headed straight for us.’
    • ‘He ran over to his BMW and climbed in, gunning the engine, and speeding down the driveway.’
    • ‘I whipped the Ferrari into the courtyard, gunning the engine.’
    • ‘Then he was back in the cockpit, gunning the engine, pointing the nose up and soaring over the telephone wires.’
    • ‘I heard him gunning the engine on his pickup and squealing out of the driveway.’
    • ‘She gave Erin a wave and, gunning the quad's engine, sped away.’
    • ‘The door whooshed shut, and the bus's tires skidded on the gravel driveway as the driver gunned the engine.’
    • ‘He brakes once more, guns the engine a final time - and we race off across the roof of the Big Top, the floor dizzyingly far below, and come to a screaming stop, high above the ground on the far side.’
    • ‘I gunned the engine at the fifth red light I came upon, and was tempted to go through the red light, but a low rumble stopped me.’
    • ‘The pair only just survived them, gunning their engines to get over the lip and come flying out the other side (giving thanks to God as they did so).’
    • ‘I was in terrible pain, but was worried about my friends, so I started gunning the engine.’
    • ‘He gunned his engine, and bullied the schooner through, scraping bottom.’
    • ‘Gingerly gunning the engine, I swung out onto the interstate, no lights.’
    • ‘He guns the engine and gels away from them, sweeping up to the front door and locking up the brakes in a skid.’
    • ‘I was still putting on my helmet when David gunned his engine, leaving Kelvin and I in a cloud of dust.’
    • ‘The 30 mph limit was disregarded in the euphoria of being able to gun an engine again.’
    1. 2.1 Accelerate (a vehicle)
      ‘he gunned the car away from the curb’
      • ‘Most days the cobbled streets and piazzas of the town are chock-full of delivery vans, family Fiats and boy racers gunning their small-engined Vespas.’
      • ‘Giving the driver a nod, the truck gunned it, and sped back onto the more secure skidder tail.’
      • ‘Jonno is down below about to start, when he screams at me to gun the boat.’
      • ‘He guns the car out of the parking lot and, because there is no traffic blocking his path, he drives unhindered straight up the road and away.’
      • ‘She gunned her bike once more and set her goal on getting down there quickly as possible.’
      • ‘As fast as she could gun the car without being pulled over, she rushed from the airport to the monolithic Apath building.’
      • ‘I shook my head no, and Kass laughed, gunning the truck away from home.’
      • ‘He had already gunned the little car; at once it lost traction on the gravel.’
      • ‘I couldn't get comfortable, the dreams were bad, my neighbor was gunning his motorcycle again.’
      • ‘They gun the boat towards the fish and ease off just before they get too near them.’
      • ‘With one last glance back, both to the accelerating cop and his four friends behind him, he gunned it.’
      • ‘Motivated by this thought, Isis gunned her hover cycle before taking off.’
      • ‘Instead he gunned the car and when the light changed, took off down the road.’
      • ‘I gunned the cycle and popped a wheelie before driving out to the desert.’
      • ‘Grabbing his jacket, he ran out the door and into his truck, throwing it into reverse, then drive and gunning it down the road away from that prison he had to stay at.’
      • ‘He surveyed the streets, gunning the car up one of San Francisco's steep hills.’
      • ‘It took only a second to decide it was time to move on, but when Andrew gunned the BMW towards a small opening between the bikes, the gap closed up.’
      • ‘Tom Frantzen guns his four-wheeler across the farmyard, a cart full of empty feed buckets rattling behind.’
      • ‘‘It is something like gunning a car constantly,’ she says.’


  • big gun

    • informal An important or powerful person.

      ‘the first baseman and the center fielder were the big guns of that team’
      celebrity, famous person, very important person, personality, name, big name, famous name, household name, star, superstar, celebutante, leading light, mogul, giant, great, master, king, guru
      View synonyms
  • go great guns

    • informal Proceed forcefully, vigorously, or successfully.

      ‘the film industry has been going great guns recently’
      • ‘They were going great guns until my husband tried to turn the plane and it wouldn't turn.’
      • ‘Nine years on, not only have savings in personal pensions fallen dramatically, but company pensions, which were going great guns in 1997, are now also on their knees.’
      • ‘The mint is also going great guns after a shaky start, and the oregano plant which amounted to nothing last year has come into it's own and is crowding out the chives which share it's tub.’
      • ‘I started the fossil trail - that's going great guns.’
      • ‘A glance at your local directory will confirm that dance studios, schools and danceware suppliers are going great guns and whether you wish to learn classical ballet or belly dancing, you will find someone to teach you.’
      • ‘My piano lessons were going great guns, so I thought this put me in the elite and obviously endeavored to impress my teacher and probably my parents.’
      • ‘Our double-act show went great guns, and we had a few walkouts.’
      • ‘There's a new smokehouse operation that's going great guns.’
      • ‘She's going great guns, building night and day; making things work that just shouldn't, until she tells the principal what she's doing in an effort to explain skipping class.’
      • ‘Gala's early attempts at intimidating the ‘city boys’ went great guns, with feet raking aplenty in the rucks.’
      prosper, do well, get on well, go well, fare well
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  • jump the gun

    • informal Act before the proper time.

      • ‘While you've been worried about discretion, caution and not jumping the gun, however, your ‘friend’ has been thinking about how to lure you closer.’
      • ‘If not, maybe you are jumping the gun and are actually feeling uncomfortable about the situation yourself, not about what other people are thinking.’
      • ‘But are politicians jumping the gun with plans to stop it?’
      • ‘There's a lot of sense in what he says, but I think he jumps the gun on this one.’
      • ‘While I could be jumping the gun - the night is still young - it now appears that their final answer is: They were talking about a car.’
      • ‘The atmosphere is tense, police and coastguards are on hand to make sure nobody jumps the gun.’
      • ‘It's only been here a week and when we got it I thought I was jumping the gun, but it's so cheerful and pretty and elegant in it's dark green velvety majesty, turning one end of my livingroom into the dark, mysterious winter forest.’
      • ‘Councillor Rowen is jumping the gun, as we haven't even decided if we're adopting the scheme.’
      • ‘There's been some criticism that he's jumping the gun here and trying to look more presidential before there's a concession or anything like that.’
      • ‘I think that, at this point, anything is jumping the gun, other than saying he's the most logical suspect and all the evidence does point to him right now.’
      act prematurely, act too soon, be overhasty, be precipitate
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  • stick to one's guns

    • informal Refuse to compromise or change, despite criticism.

      ‘we have stuck to our guns on that issue’
      • ‘Despite the criticism, the archbishop stuck to his guns.’
      • ‘He will stick to his guns, despite all the mounting evidence.’
      • ‘Management staff from both teams pleaded with him to continue but he stuck to his guns and abandoned the National Conference One fixture.’
      • ‘He's his own man, doesn't compromise his principles to achieve cheap popularity, but sticks to his guns.’
      • ‘It made him think that force was a suitable way of dealing with tricky problems, and that if you stuck to your guns and ploughed on, you would end up as a hero.’
      • ‘Women now also recognise the need to stick to their guns when they are criticised by men.’
      • ‘Labour MPs determined to shoot down controversial plans for variable university top-up fees are poised to stick to their guns, despite last-ditch compromise proposals from the Government.’
      • ‘She is sticking to her guns and point blank refusing to send him anywhere else.’
      • ‘He stuck to his guns and again insisted he could do nothing to help himself.’
      • ‘Peers should be open to compromise, but they should also stick to their guns on the important issues.’
      persevere, continue, carry on, go on, keep at it, keep on, keep going, keep it up, not give up, be persistent, be determined, follow something through, see something through, show determination, press ahead, press on, plod on, plough on, stay with something, not take no for an answer
      View synonyms
  • top gun

    • informal A (or the) most important person.

      ‘the top guns in contention for the coveted post of chairman’
      • ‘When we come back, some surprising words about the press from one of the top guns at 1600 Pennsylvania.’
      • ‘However when it comes to a knockout competition, there are always surprises and as always some of the top guns will be making their exit in the opening rounds with last year's finalists Desmonds and Duagh meeting in the first round.’
      • ‘But in order to be top gun in 2004, he has to topple the deficits, topple the rise in unemployment, topple the rising cost of health insurance, topple rising crimes.’
      • ‘This week the network sent their top guns to the region to report on the storm's three-month anniversary.’
      • ‘It is the familiar tale of a weary professional challenged by a cocky upstart determined to prove himself as top gun.’
      • ‘Before the presidential candidates go head to head, two of their campaign top guns will give us a sense of what to expect tonight.’
      • ‘The important thing to remember is that while the men are out there brimming with testosterone, striving to be top guns, you can set off your beauty against some of the most glorious vistas nature has to offer.’
      • ‘A magnificent effort from her which shows she can certainly mix it with the top guns and a little bit more luck with the putter and she could pull out a big win.’
      • ‘And after savouring the taste of a showdown with the Premiership's top guns in the Worthington Cup, Cox is ready for more challenges in what he described as ‘the greatest cup in the world’.’
      • ‘However, she said that what foreign companies are interested in are the top guns who are familiar with both international and national financial practices.’
  • under the gun

    • informal Under great pressure.

      ‘manufacturers are under the gun to offer alternatives’
      • ‘Apologies for anything that strikes you as hideously substandard; I've been under the gun for a few weeks with no rest in sight.’
      • ‘Here, they seem to be put under the gun, I think, quite severely.’
      • ‘It never fails when you make plans to tackle something, or are under the gun with pressure, something or everything jumps in your way trying to prevent you from making that goal.’
      • ‘And the Army Corps of Engineers is under the gun to explain why it's taking so long to repair the breaches in the levee that's keeping most of the city under water.’
      • ‘Testing has changed the curriculum, because teachers know they are under the gun and administrators know their schools are going to be ranked and that parents look at those scores when choosing schools.’
      • ‘Clearly, since they're under the gun, they're not going to pick a totally unqualified flunky.’
      • ‘How many times are you as the operator under the gun to complete a facility project where your primary concern is having it done before camp opens?’
      • ‘Sources say the Pentagon is under the gun to trim $10 billion from next year's budget, and as much as $60 billion in defense spending over the next six years.’
      • ‘The fact is, I will try to get few things blogged tomorrow, but for the next month I am going to be seriously under the gun and just don't have time for much comments box chatter.’
      • ‘And I learned the rapper, who never is shy about speaking his mind, isn't backing down, even if he is under the gun.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • gun for

    • 1Pursue or act against (someone) with hostility.

      ‘the Republican candidate was gunning for his rival over campaign finances’
      • ‘As set up in the film, a varied and suspiciously subversive group of candidates seems to be gunning for flamboyant California administrative mainstay Willie Brown.’
      • ‘Theoretically defending the title should be harder because everyone will be gunning for me.’
      • ‘I could hardly wait for it all to come out and see the reaction of the people who had been gunning for us.’
      • ‘I still think he's kind of cool, but that was really uncalled for, as half the field was still gunning for him.’
      • ‘Banner's in more trouble than usual, as dead enemies are gunning for him, and new, mysterious ones are busy setting him up for murder.’
      • ‘One thing's for sure: He's the guy that every other team is gunning for, and that's a tough place to be.’
      • ‘Linda came up behind me, ‘They were gunning for you today.’’
      • ‘Down below, the suspicion from an offended conservative is that I'm gunning for conservatives.’
      • ‘Clearly, they're keeping their heads down at the moment because of the overwhelming American presence in the region and the fact that the Russians, the Americans, the regimes, everyone is gunning for them.’
      • ‘It seemed like that senator was gunning for you.’
      1. 1.1Seek out or strive for (something) determinedly.
        ‘he had been gunning for a place in the squad’
        • ‘Business units hate charge-backs because they want computing to come out of IT's budget, no matter how big a project the business unit is gunning for.’
        • ‘You would too if 12,000 people were gunning for your job.’
        • ‘The party is gunning for at least 40 seats, which could make the Congress depend on it for forming the government.’
        • ‘But to fair (and I have no idea if this is what they were gunning for, but I'm guessing no), this album is pretty depressing, precisely because it's so naively bright and rosy.’
        • ‘Also, with a game based on a movie, mass appeal will be something that the developers will be gunning for.’
        • ‘Don't be fooled by the sprawling and overdone psychedelic ballads - this is the same boy band that was gunning for the pre-pubescent market only two years ago.’
        • ‘Africa's top eight clubs will be gunning for a good deal of money and a piece of football history.’
        • ‘Even at 49 with more than 50 career victories and one NASCAR cup championship, Wallace is gunning for victory lane.’
        • ‘An impulse buy, claims the 30-year-old, but the car met the ‘suitably obnoxious’ criteria that he was gunning for - and it allowed him to indulge his love for driving fast.’
        • ‘But this is what I've been gunning for all my life.’


Middle English gunne, gonne, perhaps from a pet form of the Scandinavian name Gunnhildr, from gunnr + hildr, both meaning ‘war’.