Shooting your wad - etymology

What is the origin of the phrase shooting your wad? Google brings up conflicting results.

One interpretation

and another

A quick, preliminary reply.

I can find a newspaper use of the phrase in 1900. It was used to express that the fellow had exhausted his available resources. He had done all that he was capable of.

I personally doubt the gun/wad etymology.

I don’t have a cite yet for the more modern, sexual use.

Well, the tell the cannon version for the tour guide re-enactments at Fort Point National Historic Site, presumably a place that would hear from history buffs if they screwed up.

The explanation is that after firing a cannon, the barrel has to cool before it can be reloaded. If it’s not cool enough, and you put in gun powder and ram down the wad to contain it, it may go off at that point, shooting the wad, and perhaps taking the ramrod and your arm with it.

I may change my mind. :slight_smile:

I just found an 1882 newspaper cite which used it as a metaphor about a guy who went hunting and came up empty… Again, it wasn’t literal, but a metaphor.


More discussion here at message board re “shoot one’s wad”

Johnny. I stupidly doubted the connection to guns because of the previously found early cite of 1914. I let that color my perception.
Hard to argue with my 1882 find. :o