A shot in the arm


What's the meaning of the phrase 'A shot in the arm'?

A shot in the arm is a stimulus.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A shot in the arm'?

This expression derives from the invigorating effect of injecting drugs. A shot is of course US slang for an injection, either of a narcotic or medicinal drug. That term has been in use since around the beginning of the 20th century; for example, this piece from the San Francisco Chronicle Supplement, October 1904:

“I varied hardly a minute each day in the time of taking my injection. My first shot was when I awoke in the morning.”

‘A shot in the arm’ came soon afterwards and the first mention of a figurative use of it in print that I can find is from the Maine newspaper The Lewiston Evening Journal, January 1916:

The vets can give politics a shot in the arm and the political leaders realize it.

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Trend of a shot in the arm in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.