call the shots


call the shots


  • to be in charge of what is happening and what should happen
  • take the initiative in deciding how something should be done
  • act as the authority and choose how things are supposed to be conducted
  • when one is in power and wants to mandate other people to carry out specific tasks
  • in situations to show a person is in command and runs the show
  • where one is in charge and makes the final say regarding particular matters

Example Sentences

  1. The policeman is the one who will call the shots during the political gatherings.
  2. Firstborn children are prone to call the shots when it comes to ordering around their siblings.
  3. The manager is undoubtedly the one to call the shots in such sensitive matters.
  4. The teacher left the class representative with the responsibility to call the shots in class.
  5. It is pretty uplifting to be in a position to call the shots.
  6. The Prime Minister tried his best to give the impression of being in control, but BBC revealed that the party president called all the shots.


The expression originated from military marksmanship training. The phrase is of American descent and was first recorded in the 1960s.  It came to be after a marksman made a successful shot on the right target and, in turn, called it ‘his shot‘. Regarding this, the more competent marksman had the right and responsibility to call the shots.  Hence the idiom, call the shots.

Share your thoughts1 Thought

Didn't it come about much earlier when military men had to be of a certain rank to decide if shots were to be or not to be. Otherwise war would be complete chaos like they are today, a little jab there. Even today the police captain calls the shots, that is, whether or not shots will take place and whether they'll be:fatal or not. Goes way back to the invention and deployment of the gun.

- Gavin Rowley June 23, 2023

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