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1851, originally in reference to airships and balloons, from air (n.1) + craft (n.); a term from boating, as were many early aviation words. Of airplanes from 1907 and since 1930s exclusively of them. Aircraft carrier is attested from 1919 (H.M.S. Hermes, launched September 1919, was the first ship to be built from the hull up as an aircraft carrier).