Named after British army officer Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842) who invented an anti-personnel shell that transported a large number of bullets to the target before releasing them, at a far greater distance than rifles could fire the bullets individually. The surname is likely a metathesized form of Charbonnel, a diminutive of Old French charbon (“charcoal”) in reference to hair color, complexion, or the like.
- (historical) An anti-personnel artillery shell used in WWI which carries a large number of individual bullets close to the target and then ejects them to allow them to continue along the shell's trajectory and strike the target individually.
- A collective term for shot, fragments, or debris thrown out by an exploding shell, bomb or landmine.
- (slang) Loose change.
- 2004, Mike Skinner (lyrics), “Fit But You Know It”, in A Grand Don’t Come For Free, performed by The Streets:
- I was waiting in the queue, looking at the board / Wondering whether to have a burger or chips / Or what the shrapnel in my back pocket could afford
- The dog did not eat my sandwich. It was in a bag. If he had eaten my sandwich, there'd be shrapnel all over the place from him tearing open the bag.