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1915, "punish, attack," picked up by British soldiers from German strafen "to punish" (from Proto-Germanic *stræf-), in slogan Gott strafe England "May God punish England," current in Germany c.1914-16 at the start of World War I. The word used for many kinds of attack at first; meaning "shoot up ground positions from low-flying aircraft" emerged as the main sense 1942. Related: Strafed; strafing.