mus·​ket ˈmə-skət How to pronounce musket (audio)
: a heavy large-caliber muzzle-loading usually smoothbore shoulder firearm
broadly : a shoulder gun carried by infantry

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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 both 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 retained still after the wheel lock was replaced by the flintlock. As the practice of rifling firearms—incising the barrel with spiral grooves to improve the bullet's accuracy—became more common, the term musket gradually gave way to the newer word rifle in the 18th century.

Examples of musket in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web An initial excavation last summer revealed chimney bases and uncovered a military buckle and lead shot for muskets. CBS News, 17 May 2024 Carrying a musket on the Upper West Side of New York could get a little awkward. Abc News, ABC News, 9 May 2024 His oil painting depicts a half-nude woman carrying a French flag in one hand and a musket with a bayonet in the other. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 3 May 2024 The $2,500 grant from the Missouri Humanities Commission is funding the Lee’s Summit History Museum’s purchase of a case to conserve and exhibit buckskin clothing and a musket owned by John Hardin Harris, an early pioneer in the area. Janice Phelan, Kansas City Star, 27 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for musket 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'musket.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French mousquet, from Old Italian moschetto small artillery piece, sparrow hawk, from diminutive of mosca fly, from Latin musca — more at midge

First Known Use

1574, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of musket was in 1574


Dictionary Entries Near musket

Cite this Entry

“Musket.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


mus·​ket ˈməs-kət How to pronounce musket (audio)
: a muzzle-loading firearm that was once used by soldiers

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