Parthian Shot

Another big gap between posts – I keep trying to update more frequently but less verbosely, and failing dismally. But I’m not about to give up, so here’s a brief comment on a folk etymology I hadn’t come across before; the ‘Parthian shot’/’parting shot’.

As a student of arms, I frequent the excellent ForgottenWeapons.com, where a commenter recently posted;

‘In classic times, the Parthian cavalry were famous for their tactic for riding up to the enemy, taking a single bowshot and then riding off.. from which we get the expression – taking a Parthian (or Parting) shot..!’

With due respect to the chap posting, this is about as redundant an etymology as I’ve ever seen. Parting = to separate, to leave. Shot=to shoot. How much more complex does it need to be? Even if there were a documented source for this claim, we couldn’t be sure that a given use of the phrase meant literally a parting shot, or was alluding to the supposed Parthian origin. The complicating factor is that, as it turns out, people actually have used ‘Parthian shot’ in the same context as ‘parting shot’. But there remains no evidence for their etymological connection.

Phrases.org nails this one, so jump over there to see the first cites for each of the two phrases.

 

 

About these ads

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Parthian Shot”

  1. Facey Romford Says:

    “The Parthian horsemen were accustomed to discharge their missiles backwards while in real or pretended flight; hence used allusively in P. shaft, shot, glance, etc.” O.E.D. Not quite the same thing, I would say.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers

%d bloggers like this: