Definitions

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

  • n. Fragments from an exploded artillery shell, mine, or bomb.
  • n. A 19th-century artillery shell containing metal balls, designed to explode in the air above enemy troops.
  • n. The metal balls in such a weapon.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A collective term for shot, fragments, or debris thrown out by an exploding shell or landmine.
  • n. Loose change.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Applied as an appellation to a kind of shell invented by Gen. H. Shrapnel of the British army.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A shell filled with bullets and a small bursting-charge just sufficient to split it open and release the bullets at any given point, generally about 80 yards before reaching the object aimed at. After the explosion of the shell, the bullets and fragments fly onward in a shower.

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

  • n. shell containing lead pellets that explodes in flight

Etymologies

After Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842), British army officer.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Henry Shrapnel, British army officer who invented an anti-personnel shell that transported a large number of bullets to the target before releasing them, at a far greater distance than rifles could fire the bullets individually. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Letson used tweezers to remove the tiny fragment, which he identified as shrapnel like that from an M-79 not from a rifle bullet, and put a small bandage on Kerry's arm.

    From On High

  • But his injuries, which she described as shrapnel damage to the head, hand and foot, were more serious than he realized.

    theleafchronicle.com - Local News

  • Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, McCauley had told his family about his special-operations ground raids in Afghanistan and of being struck by shrapnel from a "frag grenade" while in a ground conflict.

    Brave Hearth

  • Justin wasn't allowed to tell them, for instance, that he'd been dinged by shrapnel from a fragmentation grenade that inexplicably went off 50 or 60 feet away from him.

    Brave Hearth

  • She said he told her that he pulled shrapnel from a wound on his abdomen after a grenade attack in

    Heroes or Villains?

  • The armored car is said to have been hit by shrapnel from the explosion.

    Assailants in Yemen Attack British Diplomats, Frenchman

  • He turned to look at the remains of his craft, floating amidst the wrecked and half eaten cargo containers and shrapnel from the shuttle.

    365 tomorrows » 2008 » June : A New Free Flash Fiction SciFi Story Every Day

  • While in Iraq, Solorio had been shot once in the head by a sniper and hit in the hand by shrapnel from a roadside bomb.

    Iraq glimpses for April 2007

  • It'll be some guy from Southie takin 'shrapnel in the ass.

    Archive 2006-01-01

  • The four were returning to camp in an unarmored Humvee that their unit had rigged with scrap metal, but the makeshift shields rose only as high as their shoulders, photographs of the Humvee show, and the shrapnel from the bomb shot over the top.

    04/25/2005

Comments

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  • Nothing good ever came of fake snow, I always say.

    September 15, 2011

  • A non-military usage of shrapnel:
    "A man has been rushed to hospital with metal stuck in his neck after snow-making equipment shattered in Falls Creek. The 30-year-old man was injured about 4am when a pipe on the snow-making equipment shattered and he was hit with shrapnel."
    - Nino Bucci, Snow shrapnel shock for Falls Creek worker , theage.com.au, 15 Sep 2011.

    September 15, 2011

  • "It was Stanford, the cafe' owner. Like me he was a veteran of the Crimea, but from an earlier campaign. Unlike me he had lost more than just his innocence and some good friends; he lumbered around on two tin legs and still had enough shrapnel in his body to make half a dozen baked bean tins."
    - Jasper Fforde, 'The Eyre Affair'.

    October 26, 2008