A projectile is a type of weapon that is propelled towards its target. If you fire a cannon, the cannonball is a projectile, but the cannon itself is not.

When projectile refers to a weapon, it is always propelled by something else. Think of the bullet in a gun or a spear thrown by a person. A rocket, which is self-propelled, is also called a projectile. As an adjective, projectile means "propelled forward" as in a projectile force or weapon. Sometimes you see the expression, projectile vomiting, a particularly violent way to throw up.

Definitions of projectile
  1. noun
    a weapon that is forcibly thrown or projected at a targets but is not self-propelled
    synonyms: missile
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    a projectile with a straight thin shaft and an arrowhead on one end and stabilizing vanes on the other; intended to be shot from a bow
    boomerang, throw stick, throwing stick
    a curved piece of wood; when properly thrown will return to thrower
    bullet, slug
    a projectile that is fired from a gun
    cannon ball, cannonball, round shot
    a solid projectile that in former times was fired from a cannon
    a small narrow pointed missile that is thrown or shot
    a missile equipped with a device that is attracted toward some kind of emission (heat or light or sound or radio waves)
    pellet, shot
    a solid missile discharged from a firearm
    a projectile made by chewing a piece of paper and shaping it into a sphere
    a decorated dart that is implanted in the neck or shoulders of the bull during a bull fight
    BB, BB shot
    a small pellet fired from an air rifle or BB gun
    bird shot, buckshot, duck shot
    small lead shot for shotgun shells
    broad arrow
    an arrow with a wide barbed head
    butt shaft
    a blunt arrow without a barb; an arrow used for target practice
    dumdum, dumdum bullet
    a soft-nosed small-arms bullet that expands when it hits a target and causes a gaping wound
    full metal jacket
    a lead bullet that is covered with a jacket of a harder metal (usually copper)
    grape, grapeshot
    a cluster of small projectiles fired together from a cannon to produce a hail of shot
    kiley, kylie
    an Australian boomerang; one side flat and the other convex
    ball, musket ball
    a solid projectile that is shot by a musket
    an arrow that is shot from a crossbow; has a head with four edges
    rifle ball
    a bullet designed to be fired from a rifle; no longer made spherical in shape
    rubber bullet
    a bullet made of hard rubber; designed for use in crowd control
    type of:
    arm, weapon, weapon system
    any instrument or instrumentality used in fighting or hunting
  2. noun
    any vehicle self-propelled by a rocket engine
    synonyms: rocket
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    a rocket carrying a warhead of conventional or nuclear explosives; may be ballistic or directed by remote control
    multistage rocket, step rocket
    a rocket having two or more rocket engines (each with its own fuel) that are fired in succession and jettisoned when the fuel is exhausted
    research rocket, test instrument vehicle, test rocket
    a rocket fired for test purposes
    air-to-air missile
    a missile designed to be launched from one airplane at another
    air-to-ground missile, air-to-surface missile
    a missile designed to be launched from an airplane at a target on the ground
    ballistic missile
    a missile that is guided in the first part of its flight but falls freely as it approaches target
    guided missile
    a rocket-propelled missile whose path can be controlled during flight either by radio signals or by internal homing devices
    heat-seeking missile
    a missile with a guidance system that directs it toward targets emitting infrared radiation (as the emissions of a jet engine)
    air-to-air missile with infrared homing device
    sounding rocket
    a research rocket used to obtain information about the atmosphere at various altitudes
    type of:
    a conveyance that transports people or objects
  3. adjective
    impelling or impelled forward
    “a projectile force”
    “a projectile missile”
    dynamic, dynamical
    characterized by action or forcefulness or force of personality
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