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See also: air-head



Etymology 1[edit]

From air +‎ head (foremost, topmost, or leading part), sense 1 (“area of hostile territory seized for use as an airbase”) by analogy with beachhead and bridgehead.[1][2]


airhead (plural airheads)

  1. (military) An area of hostile territory that has been seized for use as an airbase to ensure the further safe landing of troops and materiel.
    • 1946 December, James M[aurice] Gavin, “Airborne Armies of the Future: Part One”, in Infantry Journal: A Magazine for the Ground Combat Forces, volume LIX, number 6, Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal, Inc., →ISSN, →OCLC, page 24:
      The only difference between an airhead and a beachhead is that an airhead covers 360 degrees whereas a beachhead usually covers 180 degrees. An airhead is two beachheads back to back with the reinforcements and resupply coming by air instead of by sea. [...] [T]o handle their mountainous proportions there must be in the airhead a sufficient number of trained and equipped airhead service troops.
    • 1948 August 28, W. B. Courtney, “Air Transport: The Answer to Air Power”, in Walter Davenport, editor, Collier’s, volume 22, number 9, Springfield, Oh.: Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, →ISSN, →OCLC, subtitle, page 26:
      In another war airheads will be more important than beachheads. Neither one will work unless we can keep it adequately supplied. The successful combat air force will require a huge transport fleet for air lift.
    • 1957, Army, volume 8, Arlington, Va.: Association of the United States Army, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 27:
      The initial airhead may in fact be a series of smaller airheads which, after landing, join up in combat structure as mutually supporting in a tactical sense.
    • 1990 April, Robert H. Scales, Jr., “The First Indochina War”, in Firepower in Limited War, Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, →ISBN, page 54:
      The French quickly massed a division-sized force of airborne soldiers within the airhead. During the 55-day siege, over 4,000 reinforcements were parachuted into Dien Bien Phu.
    • 2007, David Isby, “CBI 1942–44”, in C-47/R4D Skytrain Units of the Pacific and CBI (Osprey Combat Aircraft; 66), Oxford, Oxfordshire: Osprey Publishing, →ISBN, page 27:
      Following the success of this raid, [Orde] Wingate realised that transport aircraft in radio contact with troops on the ground had revolutionised jungle warfare. He advocated a total restructuring of the Allied offensive so that instead of an overland advance, it would seize airheads and leapfrog forward by air to Hanoi, in Indochina.
    • 2007, Patrick Watson, “The Month of February”, in Watson’s Really Big WWII Almanac, volume I (January to June), [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 225:
      He [Wilhelm Bittrich] commanded the 2nd S.S. Panzer Corps in Normandy and assisted in the wiping out of the British airhead at Arnhem in 1944.
  2. (by extension) A (usually temporary) landing area for aircraft for supplying a non-military operation.
  3. (mining, archaic) Alternative form of air-head (a horizontal channel providing ventilation in a mine.)
    • 1851 April 23, Benjamin Gibbons, “On the Ventilation of Mines”, in Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Proceedings, Birmingham: Published by the Institution [of Mechanical Engineers], [], →OCLC, page 13:
      [T]he mine then becomes exposed to the most fearful results, where the workings have been opened, by the Air being driven backwards along the Airhead into the reservoirs of Gas formed in the upper cavities of the workings, and issuing into the Gate-road charged with the Gas to the firing point, causing an explosion, of which many familiar instances might be adduced.
Coordinate terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From air +‎ head, in the sense of having one’s head filled with air instead of a brain;[1][3] compare empty-headed.


airhead (plural airheads)

  1. (originally US, informal, derogatory) A foolish, silly, or unintelligent person.
    Synonyms: airling, bimbo, bubblehead; see also Thesaurus:idiot
    • 1989, Lynne Kelly, Arden K. Watson, “The Process of Communication”, in Speaking with Confidence and Skill (Speech Communication Series), Lanham, Md., London: University Press of America, →ISBN, page 11:
      Sometimes people tell you directly that you aren't very smart, but most of the time they ignore your attempts to display your intelligence, or they kid you about being a "space case" or an "airhead." After a while you are bound to see yourself as not very intelligent, particularly if the people who have been sending you those messages about yourself are important to you.
    • 1996, Mary Ann Scott, chapter 4, in Doris Cowan, editor, Ear-witness: A Jessica March Mystery, Toronto, Ont., Oxford, Oxfordshire: Boardwalk Books, Dundurn Group, →ISBN, page 24:
      Yeah. Well, Tammi is a bit of an airhead, I guess, but I feel sorry for her.
    • 2000, Brian McNaughton, chapter 4, in Downward to Darkness, Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Wildside Press, →ISBN, page 37:
      He would be thrust into the invidious position of subordinate host, welcoming all the dorks and dweebs and airheads that he saw far too much of in school.
    • 2015 March 9, John Friesen, Six Bosnian Marks: The Oppressive Price of Pondering & Pontification, Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, →ISBN, page 262:
      So, just why couldn't I be an oblivious airhead with absolutely no patience and piles of fury, just so I could fit in and rush everything in order to cause who knows what?
Derived terms[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 airhead, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2008.
  2. ^ airhead1, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ airhead2, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]