Etymology Corner – ‘Blitz’

‘Blitz’ comes from the German word for lightning. Its arrival in the English language can be traced to the German military strategy of Blitzkrieg (literally ‘lightning war’), which used tanks and bombers to secure rapid victories at the start of World War II. When a similar strategy was used in bombing Britain in 1940 and 1941, the British shortened the original German term and referred to it as ‘the Blitz’. Since then, the word ‘blitz’ has come to be applied to any period of intensive activity. You can have a shopping blitz, a cleaning blitz, or a promotional blitz; and the authorities can orchestrate blitzes against perceived evils such as binge-drinking and anti-social behaviour.

‘Blitz’ is a good example of how the disruptions of war can introduce novel words and phrases into the language. More recent conflicts have similarly popularized expressions such as ‘friendly fire’, ‘human shield’ and ‘shock and awe’, the latter being very much the Blitzkrieg of its day.

Other Articles

Your essential guide to World Cup vocabulary

The weather outside is frightful, but for football fans the most delightful time of the year is upon us – admittedly a few months later than usual – as the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar this November. First played in 1930, the World Cup is an international association… Read More

Pop Goes the Weasel: the magical language of nursery rhymes

When we are ickle, words can cast magic spells. Think Rain, rain, go away.Come again another day. And when we are small, each new word unlocks a new world of experience. “What’s a weasel, Dad?” When we are tiny, nursery rhymes do both. *** And they… Read More

Soggy bottoms & baps: the proven glossary of The Great British Bake Off

With over 4 million viewers weekly, The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) is a great British institution, famous for baked Alaska controversies and the Paul Hollywood handshake. It also has its fair share of risqué innuendos, giving us a delightful range of soggy bottoms, baps and spotted dicks to keep… Read More