Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!”

By which meant he had just become the victim of what he (in this case a movie character) had planned for someone else. Then, I paused, thinking.

“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”

“I have no idea,” said my husband.  Which is when I realized I’ve been using this expression my whole life and don’t know what it means.

Petard sounds French, but what is it? I grabbed my laptop and typed  “hoist on his … ” into Google. Before I got to petard … up it came. Don’t you just love when that happens?


Voila! Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the rest of the story.

petard was a bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. Castles. Walled cities. That sort of thing. The word was originally (duh) French and dates to the sixteenth century.

Typically, a petard was metal (bronze or iron), shaped like a cone or box. Filled with two or three kilos (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder and using a slow match for a fuse, the petard was a primitive, powerful and unstable explosive device.

After being filled with gunpowder, it would be attached to a wooden base and fastened to a wall, on or under a gate. The fuse was lit. If all went as planned, the explosion would blow a hole big enough to let assault troops through.

Thus the phrase “hoist on his/her own petard” came to mean “harmed by one’s own plan to harm someone else.” It suggests you could be lifted — hoisted — by your own bomb.

26 thoughts on “BY YOUR OWN PETARD, THOU ART HOISTED – Marilyn Armstrong

  1. I’m reminded of the old joke which was first told as a war time accident with some form of explosives or gunfire as I recollect, or a firework and a cats bottom. It’s so long ago when I first heard the joke it has been lost in the mists of time however it can be modified to suit this situation. As I notice the petard is a cone shaped object which might in the heat of battle be misplaced prior to exploding should there be an unfortunate soldier in front of the man placing the charge. Which leads to the question of how much damage was done after the explosion? The punchline of course is; “Stuck up his arse, sir” “No, soldier, you mean rectum.” “Okay sir if you say so; rectum, it certainly did, damn near blew ’em to bits!”


  2. I love this! It’s so interesting and fun to find out the meanings behind such well-known sayings. I hadn’t looked into this one, though, and this is another “Ah – I see!” moment. Thanks for sharing this little gem, and I hope you get your wish and that your country’s leader is eventually, hoisted on his own petard! 🙂


    • Well, I was using that expression all these years and suddenly realized I had NO idea what it meant. I thought it was going to mean something like “flag” or “windsock” or something. I was pretty surprised to discover it was a primitive, yet effective bomb. I should have known it would be a weapon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It‘s also used for farting…. not beautifully put but understandably ‚to the point‘! 😉

    Over breakfast (I just finished) I had to look up another French expression: Avaler des couleuvres (to accept a lot of conditions in order to please somebody – in our case). I understood perfectly well but we wouldn‘t say: Swallowing a few colubrids… 😉 We probably, in the Swiss German language, don‘t ‚swallow‘ 🙂 🙂 :), neither vipres or other gliding stuff LOL


  4. You missed the best bit… petard comes from the Old French ‘peter’, from ‘pet’ meaning a fart! (‘peter’ means break wind!!)

    When you’re ‘hoist’ you’re blown off your feet by your own wind! Sounds about right for the Windbag in Chief! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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