A Shot in the Dark – Idiom, Origin and Meaning

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

A shot in the dark isn’t just a move you can make on the TV show Survivor. The English language is teeming with idiomatic expressions that paint vivid imagery and help make our conversations that much richer, like a shot in the dark. But they’re only helpful if used correctly, so I’ll go over the meaning and origin of this idiom and show you how to use it with sentence examples.

Shot in the Dark Meaning

A Shot in the Dark Idiom Origin Meaning

In English, we use the phrase shot in the dark to describe a guess or an attempt you make but with no real expectation of success because there’s a lack of knowledge or certainty. In other words, it’s a chance you take with the hope it will work but with the understanding that there’s a good chance it won’t, but the risk is worth it.

One of my favorite TV shows is Survivor. One of the new tactics they’ve introduced is something called a shot in the dark. If you feel that you’re going to be voted off, you can use your shot in the dark for a chance at immunity, but you must give up your ability to vote.

Is a Shot in the Dark a Metaphor?

Yes, absolutely! Shot in the dark is a very common metaphorical expression. It doesn’t involve a literal shooting action, and you’re not actually in the dark. It just encompasses the idea of making a blind guess.

Stab in the Dark or Shot in the Dark?

Shot in the Dark vs Stab in the Dark Ngram
Shot in the dark and stab in the dark usage trend.

Actually, both stab in the dark and shot in the dark are idiomatic expressions, and there’s no real difference in their usage. Both phrases convey the same idea of making a guess or attempting something with little to no expectation of a good outcome.

Shot in the Dark Origin and Etymology

It simply comes from the idea of blindly shooting in hopes of hitting your enemy that you can’t see. The roots are literal, but we use it metaphorically today. One of the first known uses in print was by George Bernard Shaw, when he used it in The Saturday Review in 1895, “1 Never did man make a worse shot in the dark.”

Synonyms for Shot in the Dark

  • Wild guess
  • Stab in the dark
  • Hail Mary
  • Long shot
  • Leap in the dark

Using Shot in the Dark in a Sentence

A Shot in the Dark Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • Without any clues to point us in the right direction, finding the culprit behind our destroyed garden was like taking a shot in the dark.
  • I love the new shot-in-the-dark choice they added to Survivor.
  • Without knowing my neighbor’s musical taste, buying concert tickets for her as a thank-you was a shot in the dark.
  • I made a total shot-in-the-dark guess at what you wanted for supper, so I hope you like spaghetti.
  • Without any real evidence, the police were making a shot in the dark when searching for the robber.

Take a Shot in the Dark

Metaphors and idioms go hand-in-hand and can really add a level of humor and intelligence to your vocabulary. So, find ways to use the phrase shot in the dark and other interesting idioms just like it!