Definition of petard
1 : a case containing an explosive to break down a door or gate or breach a wall
2 : a firework that explodes with a loud report
petard was our Word of the Day on 03/10/2010. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Aside from historical references to siege warfare, and occasional contemporary references to fireworks, "petard" is almost always encountered in variations of the phrase hoist with one's own petard, meaning "victimized or hurt by one's own scheme." The phrase comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "For 'tis the sport to have the enginer / Hoist with his own petar." "Hoist" in this case is the past participle of the verb hoise, meaning "to lift or raise," and "petar(d)" refers to an explosive device used in siege warfare. Hamlet uses the example of the engineer (the person who sets the explosive device) being blown into the air by his own device as a metaphor for those who schemed against Hamlet being undone by their own schemes. The phrase has endured, even if its literal meaning has largely been forgotten.
Origin and Etymology of petard
Middle French, from peter to break wind, from pet expulsion of intestinal gas, from Latin peditum, from neuter of peditus, past participle of pedere to break wind; akin to Greek bdein to break wind
First Known Use: 1566
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