pe·​tard | \ pə-ˈtär(d) How to pronounce petard (audio) \

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

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Where does the phrase hoist with one's own petard come from?

Aside from historical references to siege warfare, and occasional contemporary references to fireworks, "petard" is almost always encountered in variations of the phrase hoist with one's own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.

Examples of petard in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Despite that controversy, the FTC’s choice to hoist Facebook by its own petard makes sense. Rebecca Haw Allensworth, Quartz, "As regulators close in, Zuck’s long email trail poses an existential threat to Facebook," 23 Dec. 2020 After five years of continuous resident complaints, some AEC members enjoyed the opportunity to hoist locals by their own petard. David Reamer, Anchorage Daily News, "1920 was the year Anchorage voted to became a self-governing town. Not everyone was happy about it.," 15 Nov. 2020 One acts as a petard, blasting through a wall to grant access to the others. The Economist, "Miniature roboticsMilitary robots are getting smaller and more capable," 14 Dec. 2017 My biggest worry is that I will be hoisted on my own self-righteous petard. Lisa Miller, Daily Intelligencer, "John Kasich Is Already Running," 29 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'petard.' 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 petard

1566, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Last Updated

20 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Petard.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on petard

Nglish: Translation of petard for Spanish Speakers

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