Shot In The Dark

Meaning

The phrase “shot in the dark” has two definitions:

1. Taking a guess at something even though the person lacks knowledge on the subject.

2. An attempt at something that has little chance for success.

Example: My car is busted. I’m not knowledgeable about cars so this is a shot in the dark, but I think the battery is the problem.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
1. Go out on a limb
2. Hazard a guess
3. Take a wild guess

The Origin of “Shot In The Dark”

The idea with this expression is that you need light to see what you’re shooting at. If you take a shot in pitch black darkness, your chances of successfully hitting anything is low. Thus, if someone is guessing at something or doing something that has a low chance of success, it’s as if they are taking a shot in the dark.

What is known about this phrase’s origin is that it dates back to at least the 1880s. For example, it appears in the South Australian Register newspaper, 1883:

“No doubt every estimate made at the time was a shot in the dark, but it would appear from the result of the first tendering that Mr. Morgan’s guess of $(?)250,000 was rather under than over the mark.”

So this expression is at least 136 years old (as of this writing).


Example Sentence(s)

  • I don’t know what Bill’s favorite color is, but if I were to take a shot in the dark, I would say it’s yellow.

Related Examples:

  • Judging from your facial expression, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you hate the taste.
  • What’s the capital of Idaho? I’m unsure, I’ll take a wild guess and say it’s Columbus.

Note: If you’re looking for the meanings of popular sayings and their origin, we have a list for you! It’s actually right up at the top. All you have to do is choose one of the letters from the menu. You’ll find hundreds of phrases on it. So go explore and learn what they mean!

On an unrelated note, the quotes you see on here that contain the phrase, these usually come from old books, newspapers, poems, or other works. These quotes are meant to give you an idea on how old a phrase is. It does not necessarily mean that the quote’s source material is the origin point for the phrase.


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