Crosshairs – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the word 'crosshairs' somewhere and would like to know more about the meaning or the context of it? The word 'crosshairs' can refer to literal weapon sights, but the word can also have several figurative meanings. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the word 'crosshairs'.


The word 'crosshairs' is a common word used in the English language that can have either a literal or figurative meaning.

The first literal meaning of the word 'crosshairs' is to use the word to imply the sights of a weapon, usually a gun. The second literal meaning of the word 'crosshairs' can be used to refer to the middle-screen 'X' in some shooter games, which functions as a means to help players aim.

The figurative meaning of 'crosshairs' is to say that someone has someone else in their view.

The reason for the figurative 'crosshairs' is usually implied by the rest of the discussion or paragraph: the phrase can have serious, sexual, humorous or visual implications.

A similar phrase to the figurative use of the word 'crosshairs' is to say that someone 'has someone [else] in their sights'.

The word 'crosshairs' can have positive or negative figurative implications, and sometimes even be humorous or sarcastic. This depends on the rest of the context of what has been said by the speaker, or implied by the discussion.

The saying can be used to imply that one person has literally seen another person, although this is rare.

Example Usage

“Don't think that you can steal coffee from the office all you like. The boss and the rest of his staff have you right in their crosshairs for most of the day.”

“I'd love to ask her out on a date. I've had her in my crosshairs for years.”

“Okay, so this game is the kind where you just have to point your crosshairs at something and shoot. Try that zombie there, or just go nuts and shoot at everything if you want.”

“With crosshairs like this, the gun must be from at least the 1900s and it could be worth a fortune if it was ever shot by someone famous – or if it happened to shoot someone famous too, I guess.”


According to most online language resources, the word 'crosshairs' is likely to have come from the 17th century, where the word first had  a literal meaning that rose with the popular use of guns that had crosshairs or sights.

As guns became more popular, the literal use of the phrase 'crosshairs' would continue well into the 20th century, and eventually into the 21st.

With the introduction of shooting games, 'crosshars' would eventually come to mean the in-game target and became a common gaming reference.

At the same time, the phrase would also become common as a figurative way to say 'sights' in conversation with various implied meanings.

Phrases Similar to Crosshairs

  • Sights

Phrases Opposite to Crosshairs

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Crosshairs

Ways People May Say Crosshairs Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the word 'crosshairs' in the wrong way, including to misspell the phrase as 'cross hairs'.

Use of the phrase 'cross-hairs' can still be arguably correct.

The phrase can be misunderstood as literal when it is meant to be figurative, or the implications of the phrase can be understood wrong by the audience if the context is not defined by the speaker.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Crosshairs

There are several ways in which 'crosshairs' can be used in the correct way.

The first literal use of the word refers to the literal sights of a gun, whereas the figurative meaning can refer to weapon sights as in shooter games: the word can also be used as 'in someone's crosshairs' to mean 'in someone's view (or vision)'.

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