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

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 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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Bell brandished not only a scalpel, but also a pencil, making detailed sketches of his patients and the wounds caused by bayonets, cannon-balls and musket fire. Rebecca Kreston, Discover Magazine, 29 Sep. 2015 Ralph Pike crushed Spencer’s skull with a musket butt. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, 13 Oct. 2022 Albany: Some historical battle reenactors are holding their musket fire because of worries about the state’s new gun rules – an unplanned side effect of a law designed to protect the public’s safety. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 30 Sep. 2022 Some of the skeletons show signs of battle wounds from arrows or musket balls, writes Aled Scourfield for BBC News. Margaret Osborne, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Oct. 2022 Seconds or minutes later came another crackle of musket fire. Stacy Schiff, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Sep. 2022 He was twice seriously wounded, once when a musket ball smashed through his skull. Sara Wheeler, WSJ, 26 Aug. 2022 In 2019, the group discovered musket balls, leg bones and a six-pound cannonball at the site. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 July 2022 Weapons technology will also change dramatically in future decades, Milley said, and the shift will be as radical as the change from musket to the rifle, the rifle to the machine gun or from sailing to steam ships. Thomas Phippen, Fox News, 21 May 2022 See More

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.

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 9 Feb. 2023.

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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