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hang fire (third-person singular simple present hangs fire, present participle hanging fire, simple past and past participle hung fire)

  1. (of a firearm) To fail to fire immediately when the trigger is pulled.
    • 1841, Edward Costello, The adventures of a soldier
      [] a number of Portuguese soldiers entered, one of whom, taking me for a Frenchman, for I had the French soldier's jacket on, my own being wet, snapped his piece at me, which luckily hung fire.
  2. (figuratively) To wait or hold back.
    We were told to hang fire on the decision until management came back with a proposal.
    • 1913, D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, chapter 13
      “I’m just goin’ ter settle this little ——, that’s all,” said Dawes desperately.
      “What do you mean?” snapped Thomas Jordan.
      “What I say,” said Dawes, but he hung fire.
    • 1993, Dana Stabenow, A Fatal Thaw, →ISBN, page 132:
      Kevin hung fire where he was, staring at Chaney's body with dilated eyes and a slowly greening complexion.


hang fire (plural hang fires)

  1. (firearms) the situation when a gun does not immediately fire when the trigger is pulled, but may fire shortly after.

Usage notesEdit

  • If the gun does not fire at all when triggered, the term misfire is normally used.

Alternative formsEdit