n. 1. Main character of an action/adventure TV show by the same name; full name Angus MacGyver; part secret agent, part handyman, part environmentalist; hated guns (only time he ever used a gun was to remove the revolving part of a revolver to use the rest of the gun as an improvised wrench to stop the meltdown of a nuclear reactor). 2. Action/adventure TV show of the 1980's; also a short series of made-for-TV movies after the show was cancelled. 3. a person who uses improvisation and available materials to handle a difficult/impossible situation.
v. 1. to handle a difficult situation through improvisation using only available materials. 2. to do an impossible activity. 3. to get the impossible girl (MacGyver had a different girl in every episode).
Note: the latter two verb definitions almost made it into the Webster Dictionary as slang because of their wide use by street gangs in LA in the 1980's (this was revealed by Richard Dean Anderson, the actor who portrayed MacGyver, on a Good Morning America episode). It was also mentioned that (supposedly) for one hour every week, gang activity decreased dramatically in LA because all of the gangs were indoors watching the TV show.
Note: It should also be noted that materials used to make explosions on the TV show always had an ingredient or two left out so that they could not be repeated by viewers. The show supposedly used help from CalTech students with some of its tricks.
In the first episode, MacGyver used the lactose and sugars in chocolate bars to stop a dangerous acid leak. Other episodes included, but were DEFINITELY NOT limited to...
...breaking out of a freezer using heat from the lights to melt ice, the run-off running down a metal slat to the freezer's latch, which then refroze, expanding and breaking the latch, openning the door.
...using a CO2 fire extinguisher, a wedge, and water to freeze the water in a crack in a boulder, expanding it so that the boulder broke apart and fell from a cliff to smash/disable a Russian APC.
...hiding a rebar inside a rolled up map so that it could later be used as a disguised weapon.
... placing a metal bowl on a food processor so that it would spin slowly, catching all of the electronic "hash" (white noise) generated by the rest of the kitchen equipment turned on to jam a micro-camera's transmission, giving MacGyver and friends a place to talk and plan without being eavesdropped on; in the same episode, using the motor of a small kitchen appliance, batteries, a belt, a small cart (like those used by typical hotel room service), and a helm from a suit of armor to provide a moving target to distract motion sensor-targetted machine guns so that Mac could escape from the booby-trapped mansion.
For more recent "MacGyverisms," interested parties should see the movie "Chain Reaction," in which Keneau Reeves plays a MacGyver-like hero who is thrust into a thrilling, domestic CIA, conspiracy theory adventure. He uses the same MacGyver style to defeat his opponents: jury-rigging a flat-bottomed boat with a fan-drive so that he and Rachel Weisz can make a getaway, attaching a chain to a moving belt to pull down a scaffold on the muscle chasing them, etc.
Those interested should also note that the entire series is on DVD, either by season or collected into one huge set covering every episode.