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[kah-mi-kah-zee] /ˌkɑ mɪˈkɑ zi/

(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.
an airplane used for this purpose.
a person or thing that behaves in a wildly reckless or destructive manner:
We were nearly run down by a kamikaze on a motorcycle.
of, pertaining to, undertaken by, or characteristic of a kamikaze:
a kamikaze pilot; a kamikaze attack.
noun (often capital)
(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
an aircraft used for such a mission
(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 enemy: a kamikaze attack, a kamikaze bomber
(modifier) extremely foolhardy and possibly self-defeating: kamikaze pricing

“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.

kamikaze [(kah-muh-kah-zee)]

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


Violent and reckless; self-destructive: his kamikaze style would lead to fine, suspension, or tragic injury (1960s+)


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