General English


  • noun an artillery shell containing ball-bearings, which become projectiles when the shell explodes
  • noun projectiles formed by fragments of an exploding artillery shell or grenade


  • noun small change, coins. A vogue term among adolescents in the later 1990s. Unsurprisingly, the term may have come from the armed forces. Partridge has recorded that New Zealand soldiers used the word to refer to tattered banknotes in World War I. Smash is a synonym from the same period.

Origin & History of “shrapnel”

The term shrapnel commemorates the name of general Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), a British artillery officer who in the course of the Peninsular War, at the beginning of the 19th century, invented an exploding shell that sent bullets flying in all directions