Dictionaries (M-W) commonly define a gunfight as an exchange of gunfire.

However, the OED defines a gunfight as "a shooting affray". {paywall link}

Several stories & film describe or depict a gunfight where only a single combatant possesses / uses a gun, such as in the 'classic' scene from Indiana Jones.

Given such stories, is it reasonable to assume that a gunfight can involve 2+ people, where only one (presumably the winner) has a gun? Would this be a euphemism for a certain kind of gunfight?

  • 1
    I wouldn't accept gunfight as an accurate description of a battle between two persons only one of whom had a gun. Would you?
    – user21497
    Nov 1, 2012 at 22:39
  • @BillFranke OED seems to define it that way, and I see scenes like from the Indy movie, and in the Untouchables - so, yes. Nov 1, 2012 at 22:42
  • I'll go with M-W: "gunfight a hostile encounter in which antagonists with guns shoot at each other."
    – user21497
    Nov 1, 2012 at 22:44
  • 4
    As opposed to a friendly encounter in which antagonists with guns shoot at each other. Nov 1, 2012 at 22:52
  • 2
    A gunfighter without a gun can't participate in a gunfight. It's different from "singular they/their/them": concrete vs. abstract; reality vs. theory; bullets vs. bullshit. Two gunfighters with one gun = murder, IMHO. :-)
    – user21497
    Nov 1, 2012 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


Languages are not Math, they are a Being, they are life... You must not think a word means only what a dictionnary tells you; words mean what people want them to mean, (and then when a high amount of people give them the same meaning, they acquire it). If you want that the 2+ people must have a gun, then call it that way, if not, call it "pseudogunfight".
Be creative, words are magic! =)

  • Yea, I think that's what we do on this site - sort out getting "a high amount of people give them the same meaning" :) Nov 1, 2012 at 22:45
  • 3
    Words do not mean what people want them to mean; if that were so, there would be no need for translators, dictionaries or poets. Words mean what people understand them to mean. Nov 1, 2012 at 23:33
  • If words meant whatever people want them to mean, there would be no language. Nov 2, 2012 at 2:46
  • 3
    Once there are words, there is language: Ego loquor, ergo sum. "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'"
    – user21497
    Nov 2, 2012 at 3:58
  • "words mean what people want them to mean" -- wonder if there's a need for more than one language in the world any more, or any "language" at all.
    – Kris
    Nov 2, 2012 at 4:58

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