Bull's Eye – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to compliment a friend who made an unexpectedly good business decision? You could say that they “hit the bull's eye.”

This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the fascinating term “bull's eye” and shows you how to add it to your vocabulary.


A “bull's eye” (also sometimes spelled “bullseye”) refers to the tiny center of a target. Hitting the bull's eye is difficult and requires great skill.

The phrase bull's eye is used in two senses — literally and metaphorically:

  • The term “bull's eye” can refer to the center of a target. When you say someone hits the bull's eye, it can mean they aimed well and hit the bull's eye in a sport like shooting, archery, or darts.
  • A figurative bull's eye is an excellent decision, unexpected success, or a well-placed comment that “hit the mark.” It can also refer to an entirely correct statement.

In these cases, you can say that someone “hit a bull’s eye” or exclaim, “bull’s eye!”.

Example Usage

Most people use “bull's eye” as a metaphor. These example sentences illustrate how it’s done:

  • “I already knew he was a smart fellow, but I’m still surprised how successful Thomas’ recent investment decisions have been. He hit the bull's eye when he invested in Green Energy for Tomorrow!”
  • “You hit the bull's eye when you said Stacy acts rudely and arrogantly to hide the fact that she’s very insecure.”
  • “Wow, you hit the bull's eye again this round! I had no idea you were so good at darts.”


The center of a target first came to be called a “bull's eye” or “bullseye” in the early 1800s.

The name may reflect the fact that the center of a target is about the size of a bull’s eye or that it physically resembles one.

It is also interesting to note that coins called bull’s eyes were in circulation at the time, along with hard candies with the same name. The term “bull's eye” could refer to either of these.

A winning shot, one that “hit the bull's eye,” came to be known as a bull's eye itself a few decades after the middle of a target acquired this name. The earliest reference to a winning shot as a bull's eye dates back to 1857.

Nobody knows precisely when “bull's eye” and “hitting a bull's eye” took on symbolic meanings, but it is clear why.

The bull's eye is the hardest to hit. Doing so requires significant skill or luck. Novice archers or darts players are far more likely to hit the outer rings of the target than the bull's eye.

You achieve a much sought-after goal when you hit the bull’s eye. The phrase “hitting a bull's eye” has the same meaning as an idiomatic expression.

Phrases Similar to Bull's Eye

Is the term “bull's eye” not quite right? Phrases with similar meanings include:

  • Hit a nerve — an expression used to describe a comment that hit the metaphorical bull's eye and made someone angry or upset.
  • A recipe for success — instead of saying someone’s business idea hit a bull's eye, you can also use this expression.
  • Hit a home run — another sports metaphor with the same meaning.

Phrases Opposite to Bull's Eye

Complete failure is the opposite of hitting a bull's eye. You can use the following expressions about failure:

  • A total flop.
  • A bust.
  • [Something] went up in smoke.

What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct saying is “bull's eye.” Something has been successful if you have “hit a bull's eye.”

Ways People May Say Bull's Eye Incorrectly

The phrase “hitting a bull's eye” is overused. Save the expression for situations that were a complete success.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Bull's Eye

You can tell someone they “hit a bull's eye” if they achieved success or made a poignant remark that perfectly described the situation. If you feel like bragging, you can also say you hit the bull's eye.

Of course, you can also use “bull's eye” to refer to the center of a target or a winning shot that hit the bull's eye.

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