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
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Aside from historical references to siege warfare, and occasional contemporary references to fireworks, petard is almost always encountered in variations of the phrase "hoist with one's own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 William 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 him being undone by their own schemes. The phrase has endured, even if its literal meaning has largely been forgotten.
"The metal walls of the narrow corridor would scatter ricochets and shrapnel in every direction, and any intact panels of reflex armor would ignite grenades and petards in counterfire…." — John C. Wright, The Judge of Ages, 2014
"I ran back and seized a tin box which had been filled with candles. It was about the size of my busby—large enough to hold several pounds of powder. Duroc filled it while I cut off the end of a candle. When we had finished, it would have puzzled a colonel of engineers to make a better petard." — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard, 1896
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
What word is the name for both the marine animal also known as the electric ray and for a small firework that explodes when it hits a hard object?VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP