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Etymology 1[edit]

From Chinese 上海 (Shànghǎi, Shanghai), with reference to the former practice of forcibly crewing ships heading for the Orient.


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

  1. (transitive) To force or trick (someone) into joining a ship which is lacking a full crew.
    • 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.
  2. (transitive) To abduct or coerce.
  3. (transitive) To commandeer; appropriate; hijack
    Let's see if we can shanghai a room for a couple of hours.
  • (force or trick someone into joining a ship; abduct or coerce): press-gang

Etymology 2[edit]

From Scottish shangan, from Scottish Gaelic seangan, influenced by the Chinese city.[1]


shanghai (plural shanghais)

  1. (Australia, New Zealand) A slingshot.
    • 1985, Peter Carey, Illywhacker, Faber and Faber 2003, p. 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.



  1. ^ Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, by Eric Partridge, 2006, p. 613