a shot across the bows


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a shot across (someone's or something's) bow(s)

A physical or verbal attack meant to serve as a warning to someone or something. It refers to a warning shot from the cannon of a ship. Her sharp retort was a shot across Paul's bow, letting him know that she would not tolerate his bad attitude. The letter from the newspaper's editor was intended as a shot across the company's bows—if they didn't admit to their attempts to silence employees, an exposé would do it for them. The president is planning a military exercise along the border as a shot across her neighbors' bows.
See also: across, shot

a shot across the bow(s) of (someone or something)

A physical or verbal attack meant to serve as a warning to someone or something. It refers to a warning shot from the cannon of a ship. Her sharp retort was a shot across the bow of her boyfriend, letting him know that she would not tolerate his bad attitude. The letter from the newspaper's editor was intended as a shot across bows of the company—if they didn't admit to their attempts to silence employees, an exposé would do it for them. The president is planning a military exercise along the border as a shot across the bows of her neighbors to the east.
See also: across, of, shot

shot across the bow(s)

A physical or verbal attack meant to serve as a warning. It refers to a warning shot from the cannon of a ship. Her sharp retort was a shot across the bow, letting her boyfriend know that she would not tolerate his bad attitude.
See also: across, shot
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

a shot across the bows

or

a warning shot across the bows

FORMAL
COMMON A shot across the bows or a warning shot across the bows is something that someone does or says to show someone else that they are prepared to fight or compete with them, often if they continue to do what they are doing. `Bows' is pronounced with the same vowel sound as the word `how'. As a warning shot across the bows of their rivals, the company is already setting very low prices. This vote is a protest, a shot across the bows to the leadership, to show them that we're here. Note: You can also use the shorter expression a warning shot. The protest should act as a warning shot to the government. Note: People often use the verb fire before these expressions, and, less often, verbs such as deliver and send. Britain's agriculture minister departed from his prepared speech to fire a shot across Norway's bows. The electorate has sent a warning shot which our politicians must now take notice of. Note: The bows are the front part of a ship.
See also: across, bow, shot
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
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