Call the shots

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Call the shots is an idiom that seems to have first appeared in the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the phrase call the shots, where it most probably came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To call the shots means to be the person in charge, to have control over the progress of a situation or a course of action. The term call the shots, meaning to be in control of a situation, was first used in print in the 1960s. Most probably, the phrase was used in everyday speech prior to this time. Interestingly, as early as the turn of the twentieth century the term call the shots was used in military parlance to mean to note where shots fired were hitting their targets. At this time and slightly prior to this time, it was also common for performing gun exhibitionists to call where they were going to shoot, and then perform a marksman trick. To call the shots seems to have come from the sport of firearms, and not billiards. Related terms are calls the shots, called the shots, calling the shots.


The conventional wisdom in the world of Silicon Valley start-ups has been that the founders call the shots and that the investors are cheerleaders — and sometimes enablers — of the entrepreneurs they backed. (The New York Timres)

But whatever his personal views on the best way forward and however strong they are, the First Minister will call the shots. (The Sunday Post)

The only surprise is that it has taken this long, as Stephanie McMahon – businesswomen, mother, and occasional wrestler – has been calling the shots in the ultra-masculine, testosterone-fuelled world of pro-wrestling for 15 years. (The Telegraph)

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