1914, from air (n.1) meaning "by aircraft" + raid (n.); originally in reference to British attacks Sept. 22, 1914, on Zeppelin bases at Cologne and Düsseldorf in World War I. The German word is Fliegerangriff "aviator-attack," and if Old English had survived into the 20th century our word instead might be fleogendeongrype.
One didn't dare to inhale for fear of breathing it in. It was the sound of eighteen hundred airplanes approaching Hamburg from the south at an unimaginable height. We had already experienced two hundred or even more air raids, among them some very heavy ones, but this was something completely new. And yet there was an immediate recognition: this was what everyone had been waiting for, what had hung for months like a shadow over everything we did, making us weary. It was the end. [Hans Erich Nossack, "Der Untergang," 1942]
updated on September 25, 2018