Mortars

differ from guns, in having their trunnions placed behind the vent. They are short pieces, intended to project shells at high angles (45), and the shells thus projected fall almost vertically on the object struck, forcing in the strongest buildings, and (bursting at the same time) firing everything around. Their splinters are very destructive.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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