Definition of strafe in US English:



[with object]
  • Attack repeatedly with bombs or machine-gun fire from low-flying aircraft.

    ‘military aircraft strafed the village’
    • ‘Within hours of the attempted assassination, helicopter gunships strafed the village and hundreds of its inhabitants, including men, women and children, were rounded up.’
    • ‘They strafed the trenches, killing twelve and wounding many others.’
    • ‘Just what would have happened if Rommel's staff car had not been strafed by the RAF, thus putting him out of action four days before the assassination attempt, is one of the great might-have-beens of history.’
    • ‘From the air, two helicopters strafed the village.’
    • ‘Helicopter gunships strafed the area where the guerrilla group was fleeing.’
    • ‘The second flight made an S-turn and strafed the deck and set the ship on fire.’
    • ‘The frigate was covering the cargo vessels when the fighters roared in, strafed it with cannon fire, and hit it with four bombs that failed to explode.’
    • ‘Then the village is burned to the ground as those trying to escape are bombed and strafed by aircraft.’
    • ‘Cities and villages are being bombed and strafed on almost a daily basis by warplanes and helicopters.’
    • ‘Allied forces quickly ruptured the German front and penetrated deep behind the lines, while Allied aircraft mercilessly strafed the retreating Germans.’
    • ‘Air bases were attacked, ships were strafed and fuel dumps were blown up.’
    • ‘He said that helicopter gunships and navy patrol boats had strafed the communities, and that scores of civilians had been killed.’
    • ‘Several enemy aircraft were strafed and destroyed and airfield buildings were attacked.’
    • ‘Unopposed for much of the raid, they dive bombed ordinary streets, strafing them with machine gun fire.’
    • ‘Helicopter gunships and jet fighters systematically strafed the village, reportedly using information from spy satellites for targeting.’
    • ‘Erwin Rommel was one such victim, nearly being killed when his car was strafed by an Allied fighter.’
    • ‘They told us about how their houses had been destroyed and how they had been strafed by helicopter gunships.’
    • ‘To get here they had traversed mile after mile of rugged terrain while strafed by aircraft.’
    • ‘A government office that had been taken over by the militiamen and used to store ammunition was strafed by a helicopter gunship and then reduced to rubble by tank fire.’
    • ‘Later, helicopter gunships reportedly flew over the area, strafing terrorist positions.’
    explosive, incendiary device, incendiary, device
    bomb, shell, bombard, fire on, open fire on, machine-gun, rake with gunfire, blitz, enfilade, pound, rake, pepper
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  • An attack from low-flying aircraft.

    • ‘Remember that a well-placed strafe will chew up an airplane on the ground.’
    shelling, strafing, pounding, pelting, blitz, air raid, strafe, bombing
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Early 20th century: humorous adaptation of the German First World War catchphrase Gott strafe England ‘may God punish England’.