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Alternative forms[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]

1871,[1] from the important Chinese port Shanghai, as a verb with reference to the former practice by some shippers on the West Coast of the United States of press-ganging crews for fishing or shipping in the Pacific Ocean.


shanghai (third-person singular simple present shanghais, present participle shanghaiing, simple past and past participle shanghaied or shanghai'd)

  1. (transitive) To force or trick someone to go somewhere or do something against their will or interest, particularly
    • 1974 September 30, ‘Final Report on the Activities of the Children of God',
      Oftentimes the approach is to shanghai an unsuspecting victim.
    • 1985, Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, →ISBN, page 143:
      Their power had a flaw to it. They could be shanghaied in toilets.
    • 1999 June 24, ‘The Resurrection of Tom Waits’, in Rolling Stone, quoted in Innocent When You Dream, Orion (2006), page 256,
      It was the strangest galley: the sounds, the steam, he's screaming at his coworkers. I felt like I'd been shanghaied.
    • 2018 Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448
      Petitioner strenuously objects to this free-rider label. He argues that he is not a free rider on a bus headed for a destination that he wishes to reach but is more like a person shanghaied for an unwanted voyage.
    1. To press-gang sailors, especially (historical) for shipping or fishing work.
      • 1923, Francis Lynde, chapter 2, in Somewhere in the Caribbean:
        By this time I hadn't much doubt of the nature of the trap and the identity of the trapping vessel. The faint smell of alcohol in the forehold told the story. I had been sandbagged and taken aboard a bootlegging craft, shanghaied in good old-fashioned style; and the vessel was probably now on its way to the Bahamas for a cargo of spirits.
    2. (US law enforcement slang) To trick a suspect into entering a jurisdiction in which they can be lawfully arrested.
    3. (US military slang) To transfer a serviceman against their will.
      • Eugene Cunningham, "A One-Man Navy":
        “Why, if you so loved and cherished the armed guard,” Captain Banning continued, “did you arrange for transfer?”
        “I never, sir! ... But he shanghaied me out of the armed guard pronto.”
  2. (transitive) To commandeer, hijack, or otherwise (usually wrongfully) appropriate a place or thing.
    Let's see if we can shanghai a room for a couple of hours.
Derived terms[edit]


shanghai (plural shanghais)

A 1868 lithograph of the "Poultry of the World". #7 & #8 on the top left are "Grey Shangae".
  1. (often capitalized, dated) A breed of chicken with large bodies, long legs, and feathered shanks.
    • 1853, W.B. Tegetmeier, Profitable Poultry, page 19:
      Cochins or Shanghaes.
  2. (US, obsolete) A kind of daub.
    • 1880 Jan., Scribner's Monthly, p. 365:
      The ‘shanghai’ is the glaring daub required by some frame-makers for cheap auctions. They are turned out at so much by the day's labor, or at from $12 to $24 a dozen, by the piece.
  3. (US, obsolete) A tall dandy.
  4. (darts, often capitalized) A kind of dart game in which players are gradually eliminated ("shanghaied"), usually either by failing to reach a certain score in 3 quick throws or during a competition to hit a certain prechosen number and then be the first to hit the prechosen numbers of the other players.
    • 1930, Anchor Magazine, page 196:
      Shanghai’ may be played by teams of 8, in pairs, individually, or, in fact, any number.
    • 1977 May 10, Daily Mirror, p. 30:
      The hot twenty—including local favourites George Simmons, Tony Brown, Mick Norris and Lew Walker—have to sweat through nineteen 501s, one 1,001, one 2,001, one round-the-board-on-doubles, one shanghai and one halve-it.
Usage notes[edit]

The chicken breed is now generally subsumed into the brahma and cochin categories.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Scottish shangan, from Scottish Gaelic seangan, influenced by the Chinese city.


shanghai (plural shanghais)

  1. (Australia, New Zealand) Synonym of slingshot.
    • 1863 Oct. 24, Leader, p. 17:
      Turn, turn thy shang~hay dread aside,
      Nor touch that little bird
    • 1985, Peter Carey, Illywhacker, Faber and Faber, published 2003, page 206:
      They scrounged around the camp [] and held out their filthy wings to the feeble sun, making themselves an easy target for Charles's shanghai.
    • 2020, Parliament of Singapore, “Guns, Explosives and Weapons Control Bill”, in Republic of Singapore Government Gazette[1], page 161:
      However, certain objects are excluded from being treated as a gun. These include a longbow, crossbow, slingshot or shanghai even though it is capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive force.


shanghai (third-person singular simple present shanghais, present participle shanghaiing, simple past and past participle shanghaied)

  1. (Australia, New Zealand) To hit with a slingshot.


  1. ^ shanghai”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present: “First Known Use of shanghai 1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1a 1 a: to put aboard a ship by force often with the help of liquor or a drug”.

Further reading[edit]