combat writing badge

M I L T E R M S : fingerspelled letter Z semaphor letter Z signal flag letter Z Z : ZULU

The emphasis of this educational reference is on words and phrases that appear in published works about war and military service; and amongst this jargon and slang, there is no pretense of objectivity or completeness, which may be readily found in official documents or government resources. This fragmentary opus is a work in progress ....

Caveat Lector: Vulgar, profane, and obscene dysphemisms, which have been used for every part of speech and rhetorical form, have not been Bowdlerized nor expurgated from this glossary, to the undoubted dismay of purists and the evident enrichment of our mother-tongue; so immature or hypersensitive persons should refrain from perusing this indubitably eclectic and contingently egregious compendium. Swearing is usually either juvenile or crass, but military personnel admire talent and respect skill, so the ability to create imaginative expletives and to craft uncommon scurrility is often appreciated.


go to MilTerms index



Z :
short for DMZ, LZ, DZ, PZ, RZ; also expressed as "the Z". Also, an aircraft prefix under the Joint Service Designation System that represents 'lighter-than-air'.

ZAP / ZAPPED :
mortal injury, kill/killed, croak/croaked, slay/slain, die/dead, grease/greased, dusted, skragged, goner, gone West; also called WASTED, BUY THE FARM, CHECK OUT, BITE THE DUST, PUSHING UP DAISIES, WAXED; see BELIEVER, SOL, BITTER END, DEATH CARD, TWEP, KIA, DOW; compare WIA, GSW, MILLION DOLLAR WOUND.

ZEALOT :
an uncritical supporter or passionate devotee; a furvid extremist or utmost fanatic, radical enthusiast or hotheaded militant; as derived from an ardently patriotic sect (also known as "Cananaen" that was founded by Judas of Gamala) of war-like Jews who advocated the violent overthrow of Roman rule in Judea, and who vigorously resisted the Roman efforts to heathenize Judaism (caAD69-81), which great rebellion resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem. [v: guardian of the faith, defender of pure truth, warrior of God]

ZERO :
a numeric integer, being a figurative placeholder or a symbolic notation for the absence of value (or a mathematical value intermediate between positive and negative powers), as distinguished from the letter "O"; see RTP, ALPHABET SOUP, PHONETIC ALPHABET, PROWORD, INTERCO, CODEWORD, CODENAME, ACRONYM; compare ALFA, JULIETT, WILLIE PETE. [nb: although India is widely credited with introducing the zero to Arabic numerals, there is evidence that a dot numeric placeholder representing zero was used in China and southeast Asia from AD300, about 600 years before it appeared in India] [v: Alphabet Codes & Signal Flags] Also, to calibrate the sights by the adjustment of elevation and windage on a firearm or gun so as to strike the target at a given range; see BORESIGHT, DEFLECTION, BULL'S-EYE, SIGHT PICTURE, PEEP SIGHT, OPEN SIGHT, KD RANGE, POINT-BLANK, TRAIN, RIFLE, PISTOL, ARTY. [v: Firearms Glossary] Also, an aught or nil, a naught or NULLITY, a neutral or CIPHER, a duck or goose egg, being intermediate between positive and negative; see ZIP, DIDDLY, SQUAT. Also, informal designation for resetting a numeric counter or an arithmetic calculator to the beginning, so as to enable a new registration or tally, as with a trip odometer or adding machine. Also, the position immediately behind or directly to the rear in aviator's clock-face orientation; sometimes called "six o'clock" to contrast with directly forward at "twelve o'clock". Also, in maneuver or patrol elements, the end or rear guard position behind the main or central body; see DRAG, TAIL-END CHARLIE. Also, an affectionate nickname for an Air Force officer or officers ("zeroes" / "zeros") [not the letter "O"].

ZERO BEAT :
tuning a radio for optimal reception by dialing back-and-forth across the station signal, and centering on its strongest broadcast; such tuning usually involved a steady LONG COUNT to precisely fix the reception.

ZERO DEFECTS :
a meaningless catch-phrase, like PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE, that implies faultless perfection; abbreviated "ZD", it was invented by military managers to bureaucratize the Armed Forces. Compare GRIPE SHEET. [nb: a Murphy Law of Combat states: No combat-ready unit has ever passed a white-glove inspection! ... and no spit-and-polish unit has ever "passed" combat.]

ZERO FOOTPRINT :
having no discernable presence or apparent influence while accomplishing the mission; the operational technique of being undetectable or untraceable; to perform "sneak 'n' creep" or "sneak 'n' peek" in a CLANDESTINE OPERATION. See CLEANSKIN, CLEAN, STERILE; compare SHOCK 'n' AWE, HYPERWAR.

ZERO-HOUR :
the term used to designate the time specified for the commencement, execution, implementation, or initiation of a particular military attack or other operation; and may be represented as "0-hour"; see TIME. Also, the time set for the beginning of any event or action; being any decisive or critical time.

ZERO POINT :
the center of a burst of a nuclear weapon at the instant of detonation. The zero point may be positioned in the air, on or beneath the surface of land or water, depending upon the type of burst; which distinguishes it from GROUND ZERO.

ZERO-SUM :
denoting a system in which the sum of the gains equals the sum of the losses; as a "zero-sum game", wherein the wins and losses of the various players always balances to zero. Compare ACTE GRATUIT.

03 / ZERO-THREE :
the Marine ZERO-THREE infantry series military specialty (MOS) designation that is widely referred to as "Oh-Three" (letter-numeral); that's equivalent to the Army 11B ("Eleven Bravo", "Eleven Bang", or "Eleven Bush") designation. This MOS designation should not be mistaken for the look-alike OFFICER PAY-GRADE RATING for Captain. See SNUFFY, compare GRUNT, AIT.

ZERO TOLERANCE :
a catch-phrase meaning "no second chance", NO EXCUSE or no WIGGLE ROOM; bureaucratese for 'intolerance', this is a draconian policy of absolute adherence to the rules that's often associated with xenophobia, chauvinism, and other forms of bigotry.

ZERO WARD :
designates the holding area where sick or injured persons who were not expected to survive were given palliative care; later identified as the "terminal ward", but has also been referred to as the "last bivouac" or "final encampment". Compare ZERO-ZERO WARD; see TRIAGE, MASS CASUALTIES, WALKING GHOST, DOW. [v: lazaretto, hospice, pesthouse, sanatorium, leprosarium]

ZERO-ZERO :
atmospheric conditions that are characterized by zero visibility in both horizontal and vertical directions; see WHITEOUT, BROWN-OUT, FLAT LIGHT, GOO, MONSOON, STORM WARNING, WIND, MET MESSAGE, WEATHER EYE, CHOPPER, BIRD. [nb: the military perception of weather is that change is only a variant of the discomfort level!]

ZERO-ZERO WARD :
designates the quarantined holding area where sick persons with contagious or communicable diseases who were not expected to survive were given palliative care; an isolation ward for terminal patients. Compare ZERO WARD, see TRIAGE, WALKING GHOST, MASS CASUALTIES, DOW. [v: lazaretto, hospice, pesthouse, sanatorium, leprosarium]

ZI :
Zone of the Interior, or the Continental United States (CONUS); as distinguished from overseas (OCONUS) assignments.

ZIGZAG / ZIGZAGGER :
a course or line progressing by sharp turns, so as to avoid enemy fire; a series of abrupt turns with straight LEG segments which forms an irregular back-and-forth course; compare DASH, SCUTTLE, CORKSCREW; see FIRE 'n' MANEUVER, BUTTERFLY, LEAP FROG, HOPSCOTCH, CLOVERLEAF, CHECKERBOARD, BUTTONHOOK, STACK, WAY POINT, COMBAT SPREAD. Also, the methodical advance of a craft or vessel by side to side deviations from a straight or direct course, as when tacking to either side of a course HEADING; see TRAVERSE, LEEWAY, BEARING, CONVOY, YAW. Also, a battlement, or defensive parapet, as a castellated fortification of alternating merlons and crenels. [v: dentate, boyau, sap] [v: Military Earthworks Terms]

ZINGER :
any close-call or near-miss, as by a passing bullet or fragment; derived from its distinctive sound. Also, a quick retort or pointed remark, often witty. Also, a surprising event or shocking utterance; as one that's sudden, sharp, or pointed.

ZIP / ZIPPER :
rapid, swift, speedy. Also, ZERO, nothing, zilch, CIPHER, NULLITY, DIDDLY, SQUAT, nil, aught, rush, meaningless; compare XIN LOI, AMF, WASTED, ZAP. Also, a derogatory term used to refer to any Asian, sometimes called "zipperhead"; see DINK, GOOK, SLOPE, SLANT-EYE, SMALL-EYED, RICE BALL, NIP, JAPE, CHINK, YELLOW PERIL, YELLOW DOG, WOG, LITTLE PEOPLE; compare LITTLE BROWN BROTHER, INDIG, BASKET HEAD, BUDDHAHEAD. [nb: ZIP, ZIPPER, or ZIPperhead may be related to the zippered flying helmet worn by Imperial Japanese during WWII, however one dubious derivation alleges an apocryphal acronym of ZIP, as attributed to the Vietnam-era, being "Zero Intelligence Potential", implying that Asians would not talk if questioned (v: TRUE BELIEVER), so there's no point interrogating a corpse; this communication / culture gap exhibits more ignorance than bigotry, since few Americans bother to learn anything about foreign people or their civilizations] Also, a closure device consisting of two parallel tracks of teeth or ridges that can be interlocked or separated by the movement of a slide between them, so as to fasten parts of clothing, baggage, or the like; this formerly trademarked Americanism is also known as a "slide fastener". [nb: mechanical zipper invented 1905, registered 1921 by B.F. Goodrich; Velcro closure invented 1948]

ZIP GUN :
a makeshift handgun improvised from homemade parts, such as a pipe, spring, nail, and so forth; although amateurishly constructed, these single-shot PISTOLs, which typically lack rifling, sights, and other refinements, can be deadly, sometimes to both shooter and target. Primarily used for assassination, GUERRILLAs and TERRORISTs have also made shotguns from improvised materials. The etymology of this term is from null or none, as in "unmarked", and not from 'fast'. See DEER GUN, LIBERATOR, WEAPON. [v: tussari, paliuntod, paltik, sumpak; cf: repurposed firearms]

ZIPPO :
brass Zippo lighter of the
Vietnam-era
brass Zippo
slang for flamethrower, such as the TRACK-driven M-132 mechanized flamethrower; by metonymic extension of the cigarette LIGHTER. [nb: "Greek Fire" was used in the Byzantine "flame squirter" pump, which technomigrated around AD 905 into China, where flamethrowers were modified with "double-action" piston-pumps (from 6th century BC bellows) for five-minutes of continuous output as the "fire lance". China distilled petroleum into gasoline and kerosene for use as "fierce fire oil" around AD 904; and the flamethrower became a standard copper and glass weapon by 1044. The Chinese invented the unitary match in AD 577; and the SLOW MATCH as a FUSE in AD 919. See NAPALM, MAIN-GUN. Also refers to the popular cigarette LIGHTER (1932) of that brand name [nb: adapted from 'zipper' for its "modern" sound] that was used for ZIPPO MISSIONs.] [v: pyromachy] [nb: the distinctive click made by the retaining latch when opening or closing a Zippo was used as an operational PASSWORD, similar to the toy cricket clicker that was issued to PARATROOPERs for recognition on D-DAY, 6 June 1944]

ZIPPO BOAT :
LCM with flame thrower; see MRF, MOSQUITO FLEET.

ZIPPO MISSION :
slang for a SEARCH AND DESTROY mission; also called SNOOP 'n' POOP; see ZIPPO, LIGHTER.

ZODIAC :
an inflatable squad-sized assault boat, with stern plate for optional mounting of outboard motor; designed by aquanaut Jacques Y. Cousteau. Equipment is stowed inside the craft while the troops sit on the inflated sides to direct it. See IBS, RIB, CRRC, BOAT. [v: Avon, Parker, Brunswick]

ZOMBIE :
informal term for a listless person whose behavior or responses are seemingly rote, as an automaton; being anyone who is mentally or emotionally disengaged or distracted. While immersed in the throes of battle, some men experience an indifference to fear, and are careless of injury or death; which condition is formally known as "combat narcosis". The stupor and torpor of narcotism can be misinterpreted as heroism or patriotism, but it is more akin to fatalism, and does not generate ESPRIT DE CORPS among GOOD STICK/GOOD PEOPLE. Term was introduced into American society around 1810, but usage became prominent during the CIVIL WAR; also spelled "zombi", and originally meaning 'god'. See COSR, PTSD, BUBBLE, THOUSAND-YARD STARE, TELESCOPING, BLACKOUT, FLASHBACK, FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT, DISSOCIATION, OBJECTIFICATION, STRESS OF SOUL, BROKEN-WING SYNDROME. Also, slang during WWII-era for a Canadian conscript assigned to home defense duty; as a soldier so bored to death that only enforced regulations can animate his corpse. Also, an informal GULF WAR-era euphemism for those people who are worthless, have no useful intelligence, and live-off the rest of their fellow creatures; by extension of its common reference for the "undead"; the mind-sets of such people will not let a favored factoid or cherished myth be killed, so they must bring it back to life, hence the landscape is populated by animated corpses that are broken and bent but unbowed.

THE ZONE :
referent for the individual isolation that enables total concentration and complete indifference to externals, as a warrior's focus; sometimes called a BUBBLE; see COLD ZERO, HEAD IN THE GAME, SPIDER SENSE, COLD-BLOOD, DISSOCIATION, OBJECTIFICATION, TELESCOPING, STRESSOR, STRESS OF SOUL.

ZONE AND SWEEP :
an artillery tactic or technique that's used to cover a target with an "X" pattern of fire.

ZONE OF CONTENTION :
that area situated between the advanced positions of the combatants, being that disputed sector, varied by terrain access and available FIREPOWER, that separates the deployed skirmishers, which is generally defined by the FOXHOLEs and lines of entrenchment used by the opposing forces; also known as NO MAN'S LAND. [v: Military Earthworks Terms]

ZONE OF FIRE :
an area into which a designated ground unit or fire support element delivers fire support, observed or not; see IMPACT AREA, POINT OF IMPACT, DANGER CLOSE, KILL ZONE; compare DEAD SPACE.

ZONE OF OCCUPATION :
the area situated behind the FRONT LINE or the Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA), the Main Line of Resistance (MLR) or the Forward Line Of Troops (FLOT), that's used for logistics and support; this sector usually includes the headquarters (HQ) or Command Post (CP), a medical AID STATION or DISPENSARY, an ammunition DUMP or magazine, REVETMENTs for artillery (ARTY) or POL storage, BUNKERs for STAFF or COMMO, and the like; extending from hundreds to thousands of yards, depending upon the lay of the land and terrain features.[v: Military Earthworks Terms]

ZOO :
a truncation of 'zoom' or ZOOMIE, being a slang reference to the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) established in 1954 at Colorado Springs, CO; also called ALUMINUM U; see THE BIRD, DOOLIE, JUNIOR BIRDMAN, CADET, RING-KNOCKER, TRADE SCHOOL, OCS, ROTC. [v: Military Schools] [v: Siwash ("At Good Old Siwash" by George Helgeson Fitch (1911)] Also, nickname for Nga Tu So (the So Intersection) and Pha Phim (Film Studio) (geo: 21 00 00N 105 49 30E; UTM: 48QWJ85732217), site of major NVN prison camp for captive allied population; also known as [nb: some names only refer to sections within this prison] Zoo Annex, Cu Loc, BOQ, Camp Two, Camp America. Dates US POWs present: 20 Sep 65 to 16 Dec 70, 08 Feb 71 to 19 Mar 71, 14 Jun 71 to 10 Jul 71, and 24 Sep 71 to 29 Mar 73. This was the location of the PAVN motion picture institute's film studio before the Second INDOCHINA War. It is located in a residential area in the southwest suburbs of Hanoi, on the east side of Nguyen Trai Street (the road to Ha Dong City), a short distance north of Cau Moi (the "New Bridge"). In 1965, the facility was transferred temporarily to the Enemy Proselyting Department for use as a POW camp. In about April 1972, Office 22 of the newly formed PAVN Group 875 took responsibility for administration of this and other US POW camps in North Vietnam. After the war this facility was returned to the PAVN motion picture institute. See POW.

ZOOM BAGS :
see ZOOT SUIT, FLIGHT SUIT; compare JUNGLE BAGS.

ZOOMIE :
derogatory reference to any AIRMAN or BIRDMAN, especially an Air Force Academy (ie: ZOO or ALUMINUM U) graduate. See DOOLIE, JUNIOR BIRDMAN, CADET, PILOT, GOOD STICK, FLY-BOY, BIRDMAN, AIRMAN, DOGFACE, JARHEAD, HORSE MARINE, SQUID, SWABBY, GI.

ZOOT SUIT :
aviation slang for the WWII-era FLIGHT SUIT; being an ill-fitting fabric coverall with numerous zippered pockets and front closure that was to be worn with FLIGHT JACKET, helmet, gloves, BOONDOCKERS, PARACHUTE, and other flight gear; also called "zoom bags". Compare JODHPUR, JUNGLE BAGS; see G-SUIT, POOPIE SUIT, FLIGHT SUIT, PARTY SUIT, COLORS, DRESS, PATCH, TRASH.

ZORCH :
to overload, overwhelm, devastate, wreck, cripple, or "fry" a communications net, as by an inverse heat sink in a circuit; term probably originated as a corruption of 'scorch', and represents a method of SABOTAGE in "information warfare"; see NETRUSION. Also, any type of energy, especially when propelling something very quickly; an indefinite but very rapid rate of speed; see SHAKE, JIFF / JIFFY, ASAP, PDQ, CHOGI, CHOP CHOP, RIKI TIK, STAT; compare SUPERSONIC, HYPERSONIC. [nb: in the VAX/VMS operating system, the parameter 'timepromptwait' was specified in microfortnights (1.2096 seconds); the 'nanocentury' (3.155 seconds) is a computing interval devised by IBM in 1969 as the limit of time a user should be expected to wait for a processing response]

ZULU :
designation for the casualty report; see BUTCHER'S BILL, BODY COUNT, KILL CREDIT. Also, the military's universal time designator coordinated with the prime meridian of GMT or UTI/UTC; see TIME. Also, the word assigned to represent the letter "Z" in the international phonetic alphabet; at various times in different spelling schemes, it has also been acrophonetically represented as Zed and Zebra. See ALPHABET SOUP, PHONETIC ALPHABET. [v: Alphabet Codes & Signal Flags]

ZUNI :
standard unguided attack rocket carried by TAC-AIR fighter aircraft.




MilTerms
index
S-1:
ADMIN
S-2:
INTEL
S-3:
OPNS
S-4:
QM
S-5:
CA
S-6:
COMMO
Site
Map
Home
Page





C O M B A T