I came across this sentence in Washington Post today,

Three federal appellate judges on Tuesday lobbed critical inquiries at those challenging and defending President Trump’s controversial immigration order — whose immediate fate now rests with the court.

I am curious about the use of the verb "lob" here. In dictionary, there is only one meaning of the verb,

1.Throw or hit (a ball or missile) in a high arc: ‘he lobbed the ball over their heads’

1.1[with object] (in soccer or tennis) kick or hit the ball over (an opponent) in a high arc: ‘he managed to lob the keeper’

Clearly the definition of the word has nothing to do with the "lob" used in that newspaper sentence. I can only guess it's a figurative usage, but what's the exact meaning of "lobbed critical inquiries at..."? It's just hard to fathom.

  • 1
    Yes, of course it's figurative. The "critical inquiries" were the bombs that were lobbed.
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 2:15

1 Answer 1


It's a tennis metaphor.

A lob compels an opponent who crowds the net too aggressively to retreat from his position into the backcourt; but an opponent who is properly prepared and positioned may take advantage of the high, slow ball to 'smash' a return.

The idea seems to be that the panel sought to challenge the attorneys on both sides to 'cover the entire court'—address all aspects of the matter rather than just those where they had the strongest case.

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