noun Also air lift.

a system for transporting persons or cargo by aircraft, especially in an emergency.
the persons or cargo so transported.
the act or process of transporting such a load.
a pump for raising liquids by the pressure of air forced into the pump chamber.

verb (used with object)

to transport (persons or cargo) by airlift.


of or relating to an airlift or airlifts: to increase the army's airlift capacity.


Origin of airlift

First recorded in 1940–45; air1 + lift Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for airlift

Contemporary Examples of airlift

Historical Examples of airlift

  • An airlift of supplies dropped by parachute was being organized.

  • The Soviet effort to capture Berlin by blockade was thwarted by the courageous Allied airlift.

  • It looked as helpless as isolated Berlin did before the first airlift proved what men and planes could do in the way of transport.

    Space Tug

    Murray Leinster

  • How long do you think it'd take, with the equipment you have, to airlift all of Jonkvank's loyal troops into the city?

    Ullr Uprising

    Henry Beam Piper

  • The need to respond on a moment's notice adds to the value of airlift and prepositioned ships.

    Shock and Awe

    Harlan K. Ullman

British Dictionary definitions for airlift



the transportation by air of passengers, troops, cargo, etc, esp when other routes are blocked


(tr) to transport by an airlift
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for airlift

also air-lift, 1893 as a type of pumping device; 1945 in the sense "transportation of supplies by air," from air (n.1) + lift (n.). As a verb by 1949; popularized in reference to the response to the West Berlin blockade. Related: Air-lifted; air-lifting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper