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The meaning and origin of the expression: A shot in the dark

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A shot in the dark

Meaning

A hopeful attempt.

Origin

The term 'shot' has been slang for an attempt since the middle of the 19th century; for example, this piece from Joseph Hewlett's comic work Peter Priggins, the college scout, 1841:

"After waiting for a little while, Ninny... made a shot, and went so near the mark."

'A shot in the dark' is simply a hopeful attempt to hit an enemy that you can't see.

George Bernard Shaw seems to have been the first to use it metaphorically, in The Saturday Review, February 1895:

"1 Never did man make a worse shot in the dark."