One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A shot aimed unexpectedly or at random at someone or something with no chance of self-defense.‘a sniper took a potshot at him’
- ‘It certainly seems that mass numbers of surrenders from the existing troops, as they exist, and the end of snipers and potshots coming from the local populace will indicate an end to this.’
- ‘That firefight started when snipers took some potshots at the Marines providing security around here.’
- ‘He never gets to meet the informant as a sniper starts taking potshots at the building.’
- ‘But isn't it surprising there have not been more deaths in that benighted land where people seem to have nothing else to do but take potshots at our boys.’
- ‘The tension is high all around here, but not necessarily because of the protests or potshots being taken at the Army patrols.’
- ‘I saw, as I did in the movie Pearl Harbor, people taking potshots at airplanes.’
- ‘When the Army first started taking potshots at empty buildings there, I also thought it might be a case of some lower-level officers and grunts venting a little steam.’
- ‘He said: ‘The guy was taking potshots at everyone and it was just unlucky that he hit me.’’
- ‘And the insurgents are no national liberation force, but rather chancers taking potshots at what they consider to be cowardly occupiers.’
- ‘Troops on the ground, though, do say that there have been sporadic clashes, some sniper fire, and a few potshots from insurgent forces.’
- ‘One company commander said that as his squads moved through residential areas, they were fired on from inside buildings, and snipers took potshots at them from numerous hiding places.’
- ‘Native forces offered resistance, with fighters in buses and trucks sent across the river to attack US troops and regime snipers took potshots from rooftops.’
- ‘Common criminals don't throw their lives away by taking potshots at the most powerful military machine the world has ever known from the back of pickup trucks.’
- ‘Youngsters began tossing grenades into the compound, and locals with guns took potshots at the soldiers.’
- 1.1 A criticism, especially a random or unfounded one.‘the show takes wickedly funny potshots at movies’
- ‘She really captured the skater/snowboarder lifestyle without taking easy potshots at the culture.’
- ‘There've been many films over the years that have taken potshots at Catholics, but I don't remember any of us slaughtering filmmakers over the offense.’
- ‘That lonely eminence makes him something of a target for critical potshots from his lessers.’
- ‘She takes it all in her stride, including his abuse of other staff and customers, but draws the line when he takes potshots at her sickly young son.’
- ‘Consequently, it sometimes feels as though Wheen is taking potshots at fairly easy targets.’
- ‘But it is important to remind him that it is far too easy for him to take potshots at vegetarians because they are still in the minority, numerically speaking.’
- ‘This could prove to be intensely irritating and amusing in equal measure, and probably all too easy to take potshots at.’
- ‘It's just easier to take a potshot at George W Bush than anyone else.’
- ‘Rock critics love to take potshots at one another.’
- 1.2 A shot at a game bird or other animal purely to kill it for food, without regard to the rules of the sport.
- ‘Should the Forest Service vigorously discourage the use of salt licks outside of Yellowstone (where hunters take potshots at the elk)?’
Mid 19th century: originally a shot at an animal intended for the pot, i.e. purely for food, rather than for display (which would require skilled shooting according to hunting rules).
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