: a heavy large-caliber muzzle-loading usually smoothbore shoulder firearm; broadly : a shoulder gun carried by infantry
"They could see changes going on among the troops. There were marchings this way and that way. A battery wheeled leisurely. On the crest of a small hill was the thick gleam of many departing muskets." - From Stephen Crane's 1895 novel The Red Badge of Courage
"Redcoats and American patriots will converge on the Cantigny Parade Field twice each day, engaging in mock battles complete with cannon and musket fire. The skirmishes are narrated from the sidelines to help spectators understand the action." - From an events listing in the Chicago Tribune, September 5, 2013
Did You Know?
In the early era of firearms, cannons of lesser size such as the falconet were sometimes named for birds of prey. Following this pattern, Italians applied "moschetto" or "moschetta," meaning "sparrow hawk," to a small-caliber piece of ordnance in the 16th century. Spaniards borrowed this word as "mosquete" and the French as "mosquet," but applied it to a heavy shoulder firearm rather than a cannon; English "musket" was borrowed soon thereafter from French. The word "musket" was retained after the original matchlock firing mechanism was replaced by a wheel lock, and the wheel lock by the flintlock. As the practice of rifling firearms-incising the barrel with spiral grooves to improve the bullet's accuracy-became more common, "musket" gradually gave way to the newer word "rifle" in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Test Your Memory
What is the meaning of "presage," our Word of the Day from September 13? The answer is …