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1. A physical blow struck against someone who is unready or unprepared. If often applies to sports in which physical contact is involved. Duane just punched Jimbo in the head while his back was turned. What a cheap shot! The boxer took a cheap shot against his opponent before the round started, and the referee halted the match.
2. By extension, a mean or unfair criticism. I didn't appreciate that cheap shot you took at me at the party. You made me look foolish in front of our friends.
An unfair or unsporting verbal attack, as in You called him an amateur? That's really taking a cheap shot. The term originated in sports, especially American football, where it signifies deliberate roughness against an unprepared opponent. [Slang; second half of 1900s]
a cheap shot
If you describe something critical that someone says as a cheap shot, you mean that it is unfair or unpleasant. It would be a cheap shot, of course, to say anything about his hair. The cartoon is a cheap shot that will draw a guilty chuckle from even the most sensitive reader.
n. a remark that takes advantage of someone else’s vulnerability. It’s easy to get a laugh with a cheap shot at cats.