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A Parthian shot is a criticism made by an individual at the moment they leave a group or walk away from an argument.
The name comes from the ancient warriors of Parthia, who used the innovative cavalry tactic of first pretending retreat so as to encourage their enemies to pursue them, and then twisting around and shooting arrows at their opponents. (They even won a lot of battles with the Roman army this way.)
It is sometimes claimed that "parting shot" was derived from "Parthian shot" - see our controversy section below.
They are a subject of much fascination to Andrew Schlafly, owner of Conservapedia, who seems to think labelling these posts as 'Parthian shots' denigrates or ridicules them. However, historically, it was a fairly effective military tactic - for example, it is often noted as being a significant factor in the Parthian victory over the Roman army in the Battle of Carrhae, where the Romans actually outnumbered the Parthians by a significant amount (~40,000 to 10,000). Due to this belief, Andrew Schlafly eagerly looks forward to new additions to his collection - which we humbly catalog below.
Classic Parthian shots
A collection of some of the best, or those by old established users.
- Auld Nick - 24 May 2007
- Porthos - 27 September 2007
- Graham - 29 September 2007
- Stryker - 27 December 2007 (deleted 18 July 2010)
- MexMax - 22 February 2008
- DrCB - 28 April 2008
- DanH - 19 June 2008
- Daphnea - 29 June 2008 (and not gone- yet)
- Humblpi - 21 July 2008
- Iduan - 14 Jan 2008
- Iduan - 29 Aug 2008
- DirkB - 13 September 2008
- FernoKlump - 19 December 2008
- Sideways - 21 December 2008
- MarkWilliams - 28 December 2008
- CPAdmin1 - 31 December 2008
- Bugler - 1 January 2009
- BRichtigen - email, 4 January 2009
- RonAbdul - 5 January 2009
- RodWeathers - 14 February 2009
- FredFerguson - 15 March 2009
- ENorman - 18 March 2009
- Philip J. Rayment - offsite, 22 March 2009
- ArthurA - 26 March 2009
- WesleyS - 29 March 2009
- AlanE - 18 April 2009
- ClementB - 4 May 2009
- Krysg - 6 May 2009
- BMcP - 11 February 2010
- Wuhao1911 - 30 March 2010
- SamHB - 3 April 2010
- JDWpianist - 6 April 2010
- MeganH - 19 August 2011
Although it's often repeated that "parting shot" is a derivation of "Parthian shot" this is by no means clear, and may be an example of a folk etymology.
The first example of "parting shot" in the literal sense of "a final shot" appears in the literature in 1818 and the first figurative use in 1828.
The first literal use of "Parthian shot" occurs in 1832 and the first figurative use in 1842.
Differences between "Parthian shot" and "parting shot"
It is sometimes claimed that there is an actual difference in meaning between "Parthian shot" and "parting shot" - but it seems to be difficult to find references which support this.
- Iran Chamber Society page on the Parthian army 
- Claim for etymology
- parting shot etymology
- parting/Parthian shot etymology
- Parthian shot or "Normon shot"
- In classical times, Parthian horsemen were noted for their annoying skill in turning around in the saddle to fire arrows -- with significant accuracy -- at pursuing enemy. The phrase "Parthian shot" (or, rather, the equivalent Greek or Latin) doesn't seem to appear in the classical literature, but it's not difficult to see where the phrase might have been drawn from -- especially considering that in the nineteenth century, educated English speakers had a passion for precious classical allusions.