Call the Shots – Idiom Meaning & Origin [+ Examples]

Call the Shots

Have you ever heard the expression “call the shots” and wondered what it means?

The phrase “call the shots” is often used to describe someone who is in charge or making decisions.

In this blog post, we will explore the different meanings of the idiom “call the shots” and its origin.

Meanings of the Idiom “Call the Shots”

To be in charge or have the authority to make decisions

  • As the CEO of the company, John calls the shots and decides which projects to pursue.
  • In this partnership, each member has an equal say, but ultimately, Jane calls the shots.

To be the person who sets the rules or makes the important decisions

  • In this game, the referee calls the shots and decides when a foul has been committed.
  • The boss may listen to everyone’s input, but ultimately, he calls the shots on how the project will be executed.

To have control or influence over a situation or group of people

  • The union leader calls the shots on behalf of the workers, negotiating their wages and benefits with management.
  • In this family, the parents call the shots and make the important decisions for their children.

To be the one who dictates what will happen or how things will be done

  • The director calls the shots on set, deciding how each scene should be shot and what actions the actors should take.
  • As the head chef, Mark calls the shots in the kitchen, deciding which dishes to prepare and how they should be cooked.

To be the one who is responsible for making things happen or getting things done

  • As the event planner, Tina calls the shots and ensures that everything runs smoothly on the day of the event.
  • The project manager calls the shots and ensures that the team meets its deadlines and delivers high-quality work.

Overall, the idiom “call the shots” implies a position of power or authority, where the person who “calls the shots” is the one who has the final say and is responsible for making things happen.


The idiom “call the shots” originally came from military marksmanship training. When a marksman successfully hit the correct target, they would announce the result by “calling the shot”. Over time, the phrase became more widely used to refer to being in charge or giving orders.

The phrase is also commonly associated with the game of billiards, where players can declare which pocket they intend to hit the ball before taking their shot. Once the player successfully sinks the ball, they become the “boss of the table” for that moment.

Synonyms of “call the shots”

  • call the tune
  • be in charge
  • be in control
  • run the show
  • hold the power
  • give the orders
Leave a Comment