AskDefine | Define strafe

Dictionary Definition

strafe n : an attack of machine-gun fire or cannon fire from a low flying airplane; "the next morning they carried out a strafe of enemy airfields" v : attack with machine guns or cannon fire from a low-flying plane; "civilians were strafed in an effort to force the country's surrender"

User Contributed Dictionary

see Strafe



German strafe (in "Gott strafe England", "God punish England", 1914).


Transitive verb

  1. to attack (ground targets) with automatic gunfire from a low-flying aircraft.
  2. in computer games, to sidestep; to move sideways without turning.


  1. an attack of machine-gun or cannon fire from a low-flying aircraft.


Verb form

strafe (1st person singular and imperative of strafen)

Extensive Definition

For the fictional character see Strafe (Transformers).
Strafing is the practice of attacking ground targets from low-flying aircraft. The term is usually applied to attack with aircraft-mounted automatic weapons, but may be applied to attacks with bombs, though not high-level bomb delivery. By extension the term is sometimes applied to the firing of non-airborne automatic weapons while moving.
Strafing is frequently referred to as "Ground attack". Although the earliest use of military aircraft was for observation and directing of artillery strafing was frequently practiced in World War I. Eddie Rickenbacker attacked a German artillery train at the Battle of St. Mihiel,. World War II saw the advent of the Ground attack aircraft specifically designed for the task of strafing. Many such aircraft also utilised non-strafing attack methods such as bombs or rockets.


The word is an adaptation of German strafen, to punish, specifically from the World War I humorous adaptation of the German catchphrase "Gott strafe England".


This term has been adopted by certain gamers to mean "sidestepping", primarily in first-person shooters (FPS); in this context, it refers to the movement alone, even when no weapon is being fired. The origin of this malapropism is uncertain, but is most likely derived from either a misunderstanding of the military term, or from the Greek word strephein, meaning "to turn". The word "strafe" was used in game menus at least as early as the popular FPS Wolfenstein 3D, suggesting the blame for the initial malapropism lies with video game developers ignorant of English vocabulary. Sidestepping is an integral part of any first-person shooter as it allows the player to dodge incoming fire while keeping their view aimed at their target.
It should, however, be noted very few modern first-person shooters use the term "strafe" themselves – most game menus use the more semantically transparent "move left" and "move right" instead. However, "strafe" is firmly established in gamer jargon.


Used in some poems to contrast storms and military Siege. E.g Seamus Heaney's 'Storm on the Island'
strafe in Russian: Стрейф

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

aim at, air raid, barrage, blast, blitz, blitzkrieg, bombard, bombardment, cannon, cannonade, commence firing, enfilade, fire a volley, fire at, fire upon, fusillade, lightning attack, lightning war, mortar, open fire, open up on, pepper, pop at, rake, shell, shoot, shoot at, snipe, snipe at, strafing, take aim at, torpedo, zero in on
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