Military History Word of the Day: Enfilade

From a letter by Private Mathew A. Dunn of Company C, 33rd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, to his wife shortly after the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

“Our Reg. suffered worse than any other, being on the flank and was exposed to an enfilading fire. We lost our Col. He charged waving his Sword until he fell.”

Battle of Peachtree Creek
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The following are definitions from several sources.

(ěn’fə-lād’, -läd’)

  1. Gunfire directed along the length of a target, such as a column of troops.
  2. A target vulnerable to sweeping gunfire.

tr.v. en·fi·lad·ed, en·fi·lad·ing, en·fi·lades

To rake with gunfire.

[French, series, string, row, from enfiler, to string together, run through, from Old French : en-, in, on; see en-1 + fil, thread (from Latin fīlum; see gwhī- in Indo-European roots).]
Source: enfilade. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. [accessed: July 06, 2008].


1706, from F. enfilade, from O.Fr. enfiler “to thread (a needle) on a string, pierce from end to end,” from en- “put on” + fil “thread.” Used of rows of apartments and lines of trees before modern military sense came to predominate.

Source: enfilade. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. [accessed: July 06, 2008].


En`fi*lade”\ (?; 277), n. [F., fr. enfiler to thread, go through a street or square, rake with shot; pref. en- (L. in) + fil thread. 1. A line or straight passage, or the position of that which lies in a straight line. [R.] 2. (Mil.) A firing in the direction of the length of a trench, or a line of parapet or troops, etc.; a raking fire.

Source: enfilade. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. [accessed: July 06, 2008]