mus·​ket | \ ˈmə-skət How to pronounce musket (audio) \

Definition of musket

: 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 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.

Examples of musket in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Buried under the salts was an assortment of musket balls, bullets, buttons from US Cavalry uniforms, and artifacts from the native Paiute peoples (also known by their self-designation, Numa). Frederic Wehrey, The New York Review of Books, 16 Feb. 2021 Those who define love by pulling out and firing that musket are doing religious somersaults. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 Aug. 2021 There will also be cannon and musket firings and actors portraying historical figures. George Castle,, 3 Aug. 2021 Hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, re-enactors presented wreaths on behalf of veteran descendent groups, fired musket volleys and played music the old fashioned way, with fifes and drums. San Antonio Express-News, 4 July 2021 Yale explained how politically inconvenient papers purged from libraries and Catholic monasteries in the 16th and 17th centuries got reused as beer-keg or musket stoppers, pie-pan liners, and parcel wrapping. Olivia Campbell, The Atlantic, 13 July 2021 Hundreds followed, marching to the beat of the drums and the occasional musket shot, before coming to a halt at the Granary Burial Ground., 5 July 2021 And the dude is pretty skilled with a tomahawk and a musket. Ben Flanagan |, al, 3 July 2021 Celebrations began within days: parades and public readings, bonfires and candles and the firing of 13 musket rounds, one for each of the original states. Hillel Italie, Star Tribune, 30 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'musket.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of musket

1574, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for musket

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

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Last Updated

1 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Musket.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for musket



English Language Learners Definition of musket

: a type of long gun that was used by soldiers before the invention of the rifle


mus·​ket | \ ˈmə-skət How to pronounce musket (audio) \

Kids Definition of musket

: a firearm that is loaded through the muzzle and that was once used by soldiers trained to fight on foot

More from Merriam-Webster on musket

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for musket

Nglish: Translation of musket for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about musket


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