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kamikaze

[kah-mi-kah-zee]
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noun
  1. (during World War II) a member of a special corps in the Japanese air force charged with the suicidal mission of crashing an aircraft laden with explosives into an enemy target, especially a warship.
  2. an airplane used for this purpose.
  3. a person or thing that behaves in a wildly reckless or destructive manner: We were nearly run down by a kamikaze on a motorcycle.
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adjective
  1. of, pertaining to, undertaken by, or characteristic of a kamikaze: a kamikaze pilot; a kamikaze attack.
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Origin of kamikaze

1940–45; < Japanese, equivalent to kami(y) god (earlier *kamui) + kaze wind (earlier *kanzai
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

hara-kiri, self-destruction, self-immolation, seppuku

Examples from the Web for kamikaze

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • It had been kamikaze stuff, though there'd been a theoretical chance of the thirty men escaping, to justify sending them out.

  • He had some of the characteristics of a kamikaze pilot, too, because there was no telling if he'd get back from his mission.

    The Inhabited

    Richard Wilson


British Dictionary definitions for kamikaze

kamikaze

noun (often capital)
  1. (in World War II) one of a group of Japanese pilots who performed suicidal missions by crashing their aircraft, loaded with explosives, into an enemy target, esp a ship
  2. an aircraft used for such a mission
  3. (modifier) (of an action) undertaken or (of a person) undertaking an action in the knowledge that it will result in the death of the person performing it in order that maximum damage may be inflicted on an enemya kamikaze attack; a kamikaze bomber
  4. (modifier) extremely foolhardy and possibly self-defeatingkamikaze pricing
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Word Origin

C20: from Japanese, from kami divine + kaze wind, referring to the winds that, according to Japanese tradition, destroyed a Mongol invasion fleet in 1281
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 kamikaze

n.

"suicide flier," 1945, Japanese, literally "divine wind," from kami "god, providence, divine" (see kami) + kaze "wind." Originally the name given in folklore to a typhoon which saved Japan from Mongol invasion by wrecking Kublai Khan's fleet (August 1281). The attacks began in October 1944 off the Philippines.

As an aside, at war's end, the Japanese had, by actual count, a total of 16,397 aircraft still available for service, including 6,374 operational fighters and bombers, and if they had used only the fighters and bombers for kamikaze missions, they might have realized, additionally, 900 ships sunk or damaged and 22,000 sailors killed or injured. In fact, however, the Japanese had outfitted many aircraft, including trainers, as potential suicide attackers. As intelligence estimates indicated, the Japanese believed they could inflict at least 50,000 casualties to an invasion force by kamikaze attacks alone. [Richard P. Hallion, "Military Technology and the Pacific War," 1995]

As an adjective by 1946.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

kamikaze in Culture

kamikaze

[(kah-muh-kah-zee)]

Japanese fighter pilots in World War II, trained to make suicide crashes into Allied ships.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.