from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A small bell-shaped bomb used to breach a gate or wall.
  • noun A loud firecracker.
  • idiom (be hoist with one's own petard) To be undone by one's own schemes.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A small paper cartridge used in ornamental fireworks, generally at the end of a lance, so arranged that the flame terminates with an explosion.
  • noun An engine of war used to blow in a door or gate, form a From a breach in a wall, etc.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Mil.) A case containing powder to be exploded, esp. a conical or cylindrical case of metal filled with powder and attached to a plank, to be exploded against and break down gates, barricades, drawbridges, etc. It has been superseded.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun historical A small, hat-shaped explosive device, used to blow a hole in a door or wall.
  • noun Anything potentially explosive, in a non-literal sense.
  • noun A loud firecracker.
  • verb archaic To attack or blow a hole in (something) with a petard.

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

  • noun an explosive device used to break down a gate or wall


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

[French pétard, from Old French, from peter, to break wind, from pet, a breaking of wind, from Latin pēditum, from neuter past participle of pēdere, to break wind; see pezd- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle French petarder, from petard.



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  • I had to look this up to see if it's a tangible object--apparently it's a bomb, which I did not know--and the phrase "hoist with his own petard" (Shakespeare) means "Blown into the air by his own bomb; hence, injured or destroyed by his own device for the ruin of others." (OED) I had no idea.

    February 8, 2007

  • Wow. And here I was thinking this word was akin to leotard. ;-)

    February 8, 2007

  • When I was growing up, my folks would sometimes say something like, "Looks like so-and-so was hoisted on his own petard." It could be considered poetic justice to be hoisted on one's own petard.

    I did not realize it was yet another phrase from Shakespeare.

    June 17, 2007

  • I associate this word with two things: 1) retard, simply due to the rhyme, and 2) wedgies - I always thought a petard was like a Renaissance garment, and hoisting by one's petard meant being hung up by one's underwear. I know this makes no sense in the actual sense of the phrase (which is analogous to cutting off your nose to spite someone else's face) but I secretly like my definition better.

    September 6, 2008

  • I associate it with The Enterprise.

    September 6, 2008

  • Good grief! And I had no idea either. In my world it was a nickname for the family aardvark.

    September 6, 2008

  • Oh and yes, I know the rhyme's not exact. I don't pronounce it PEE-tard.

    PS skipvia I don't get it, what's The Enterprise ref. I'm thinking of the latest and most horrible Star Trek series - and to me that totally makes sense because I hate Scott Bakula and find him retarded.

    September 6, 2008

  • arby--your reference to being hung up by underwear? Yeah. That's what I thought for many years too. Hee! (glad I wasn't alone...)

    September 6, 2008

  • Curiously, I never made the connection with explosives in the phrase "hoisted with his own petard"; I think I thought it was some kind of sword. This despite the fact that I knew that in Slovene petarda means "firecracker".

    September 6, 2008

  • Underwear! Me too!

    September 6, 2008