Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A firearm designed to be held and fired with one hand.
  • transitive v. To shoot with such a handgun.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A handgun, typically with a chamber integrated in the barrel, a semi-automatic action and a box magazine.
  • n. The mechanical component of a fuse in a bomb or torpedo responsible for firing the detonator.
  • n. A creative and unpredictable jokester, a constant source of entertainment and surprises.
  • n. A small boy who is bright, alert and very active.
  • n. A play formation in which the quarterback is a few feet behind the center when the ball is snapped, but closer than in a shotgun formation, with a running back a few feet behind him.
  • v. To shoot (at) a target with a pistol.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The smallest firearm used, intended to be fired from one hand, -- now of many patterns, and bearing a great variety of names. See Illust. of revolver.
  • transitive v. To shoot with a pistol.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To shoot with a pistol.
  • n. A firearm intended to be held in one hand when aimed and fired.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a firearm that is held and fired with one hand

Etymologies

French pistole, from German, from Middle High German pischulle, from Czech píšt'ala, pipe, whistle, firearm, from pištěti, to whistle, of imitative origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Probably from Middle French pistole, plausibly from German Pistole, from Czech píšťala ("firearm", literally "tube, pipe"), from pištěti ("to whistle"), of imitative origin, related to Russian пищаль (piščál’, "shepherd's pipe; harquebus"). Perhaps, however, from Middle English pistolet, from Middle French  ("small firearm or small dagger"), which may be from Italian pistolese ("from Pistoia (a city in Tuscany)"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • I just read that this word originates in the Slavic languages, which I hadn't realized. It came into English from German (Pistole), which took it from the Czech word pišt'ala, which means "whistle, flute, wind instrument" – cf. Russian пищаль / pishchal', Slovene piščal, Polish piszczel, piszczałka, all of which refer to a (potentially) musical wind instrument. The ultimate Slavic root is pisk- ("a whistling sound"), which may be related to the English word "pipe", both probably deriving from the onomatopoetic PIE root pi-.

    January 29, 2011

  • I always think of
    Pistol: "My name is Pistol call'd."
    Henry: "It sorts well with your fierceness."
    Shakespeare, (Henry V).
    (I probably screwed that up.)

    November 18, 2007

  • I kind of like to say this word. Pistol. Pistol. Pistol. It just pops, you know?

    November 18, 2007