shock and awe

[ shokuhn aw ]

  1. Military. a strategy of overwhelming the enemy quickly with an impressive show of military might (often used attributively): The war planners freely admit to using shock and awe tactics, targeting civilian and military targets alike with massive bombardment.

  2. an attempt to intimidate and defeat an opponent or advance one’s interests by an impressive show, as of power and authority, bravado, risk taking, etc. (often used attributively): It's hard to look at this latest escapade of theirs as anything but shock and awe to garner fame and fortune.She’s not a shock and awe type of leader.

  1. a state of being overwhelmed, dismayed, or greatly surprised and impressed: We are already watching in shock and awe the disastrous consequences of not taking appropriate action on climate change.Even those with no interest in architecture will experience shock and awe at the sight of the new concert hall’s curvaceous stainless steel exterior.

verb (used with or without object)shocked and awed, shock·ing and awe·ing
  1. to overwhelm or defeat with an impressive show of power and authority or of military might: Could we shock and awe another planet into surrender if it didn't have the technology to meet our offensive?

  2. to very greatly surprise or impress; stun; dazzle: At $800 each, the new magnesium alloy reel shocked and awed anglers and left everyone staggered by its lightness.

Origin of shock and awe

First recorded in 1865–70; 1995–2000 for def. 1

Words Nearby shock and awe Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use shock and awe in a sentence