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

  • adjective Aimed straight at the mark or target without allowing for the drop in a projectile's course.
  • adjective So close to a target that a weapon may be aimed directly at it.
  • adjective Close enough so that missing the target is unlikely or impossible.
  • adjective Straightforward; blunt.
  • adverb With a straight aim; directly.
  • adverb Without hesitation, deliberation, or equivocation.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Directly; straight; without deviation or circumlocution.
  • noun A direct shot; a shot with direct aim; a point-blank shot.
  • noun The second point (that is, that furthest from the piece) at which the line of sight intersects the trajectory of a. projectile.
  • In gunnery, having a horizontal direction: as, a point-blank shot.
  • Direct; plain; explicit; express: as, a pointblank denial.

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

  • noun obsolete The white spot on a target, at which an arrow or other missile is aimed.
  • noun With all small arms, the second point in which the natural line of sight, when horizontal, cuts the trajectory.
  • noun With artillery, the point where the projectile first strikes the horizontal plane on which the gun stands, the axis of the piece being horizontal.
  • adjective Directed in a line toward the object aimed at; aimed directly toward the mark.
  • adjective Hence, direct; plain; unqualified; -- said of language.
  • adjective the extent of the apparent right line of a ball discharged.
  • adjective the shot of a gun pointed directly toward the object to be hit.
  • adverb In a point-blank manner.

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

  • adjective forensics very close; not touching but not more than a few metres (yards).
  • adjective ballistics the distance between a firearm and a target where a projectile in flight is expected to strike the centre of the target without adjusting the elevation of the firearm.
  • adjective Disconcertingly straightforward or blunt.
  • adverb In a direct manner, without hesitation.

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

  • adverb in a direct and unequivocal manner
  • adjective characterized by directness in manner or speech; without subtlety or evasion
  • adjective close enough to go straight to the target


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

[Perhaps from French point (de tir), (firing) point, or point (visé), (aiming) point (from Old French; see point) + French blanc, bull's-eye, target (from Old French, white; see blank).]


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  • This word (spelled point blank in a historical dictionary I was looking at--more info there) has an interesting etymology. OED says:

    "Apparently < POINT n.1 + BLANK adj., probably after Middle French de pointe en blanc (a1569, apparently only in Du Bellay; compare later de but en blanc in the same sense). Compare post-classical Latin in puncto blanco (1620 in a British source). Compare also point(s) and blank adv. and n. at POINT n.1 Phrases 2a. See further A. A. Prins in English Studies 29 (1948) 18-21.

    It has frequently been suggested (as in N.E.D. (1907) s.v.) that blank is here the noun (BLANK n. 2), and point the verb (POINT v.1 10a), referring to the pointing of the arrow or gun at the ‘blank’ or ‘white’, point-blank thus being a compound of the same class as break-neck, cut-throat, save-all, stop-gap, etc. However, in each of these cases the noun is the direct object of the verb in the underlying verbal construction, whereas it is difficult to construe blank as the direct object of point. Additionally, post-classical Latin in puncto blanco indicates that point blank was interpreted as a noun-adjective compound within fifty years of its earliest occurrence."

    OED again: "Designating the range within which a projectile fired horizontally from a gun, cannon, etc., will hit a target directly on the line sighted along. Also (more generally): designating a very short range (now the usual sense). Now chiefly in point-blank range. Also in extended use."

    October 10, 2008