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What does a long shot mean?

Kevin Naglich
Founder, Deliberate English

Alright, so when I say "a long shot," that doesn't mean we're talking about a really tall shot glass full of booze. (Though, you may need one after thinking about idioms all day 😅)

Imagine you're an average-looking guy like me (or... maybe slightly below average?), and you see a beautiful woman across the bar. You know there's no chance she's interested in you, but you're going to try to get her number anyways. It's a long shot, but it's worth trying just in case she's blind and says yes.

It's a long shot someone like her would be interested in someone like me.

A long shot is simply a guess or an attempt to do something that is not likely to succeed.

At work, you could say things like:

I know it's a long shot, but let's try to get 50 people to attend this webinar.

This means you doubt you'll get 50, but you still want to try. Maybe you'll get lucky.

You could also say:

You'll probably think this is a long shot, but what if we invite the CEO to our next meeting?

Now you're suggesting a plan you don't think will work, but you want to try regardless.

You might also hear people call someone a long-shot candidate. They're trying to win an election but are currently not very popular and are unlikely to succeed.

The last variant you might hear is not by a long shot. We use not by a long shot to say something is not true at all.

Are you finished with the report yet? Not by a long shot. We've still got at least 3 days of work.

...Ready for that shot yet?

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