Definition of tactical in English:



  • 1Relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.

    ‘as a tactical officer in the field he had no equal’
    • ‘As a field commander he combined an icy calm and plain common sense with great tactical flair.’
    • ‘The Seleucids echeloned their right cavalry wing forward to gain tactical advantage.’
    • ‘Next, you wonder how to organize an entire brigade combat team's equipment to flow according to the tactical plan.’
    • ‘The sheer numbers and volume of traffic to and from Iraq, from the tactical to the strategic level, were significant.’
    • ‘I called to my tactical officer, as I fastened the last strap of the restraining harness snugly across my shoulders.’
    • ‘But the Army planned a much greater tactical role for the helicopter in Vietnam.’
    • ‘Despite its size, Iwo Jima was considered to have great tactical importance.’
    • ‘Does one airplane, one bomb, one target represent strategic air power or tactical employment of aviation?’
    • ‘Last month she joined the US National Guard and quickly impressed her commanding officers with her tactical genius.’
    • ‘After the fall of France the Luftwaffe was in a very favourable geographical position for operations against England, but it did not have any overall tactical plan.’
    • ‘Throughout eight tactical scenarios the officers are required to quickly develop, communicate and execute their mission.’
    • ‘The result is usually a plan focused at the tactical level driven by the Defense Department toward an exit strategy.’
    • ‘The squadron's first officer is also our security and tactical officer.’
    • ‘She'd ordered her tactical officer to keep her eyes on the enemy carrier.’
    • ‘The cost is the alienation of mainstream Arabs - tactical gain for strategic loss, or at least so it appears on the surface.’
    • ‘Thus, they determine the feasibility of strategic and tactical plans.’
    • ‘The company tactical officers incorporate feedback into biannual counseling for cadets.’
    • ‘Four well-armed officers clearly had a tactical advantage if they used good judgement and training.’
    • ‘Similarly, Israel had gained a tactical victory but could not afford to pressure the Soviets further.’
    • ‘That, he says, was the basis upon which the squad was chosen, rather than with a specific tactical plan in place.’
    1. 1.1 (of bombing or weapons) done or for use in immediate support of military or naval operations.
      ‘NATO already has about 7,000 tactical nuclear weapons in Europe’
      Often contrasted with strategic
      • ‘I have always disliked the Glock as a tactical weapon because it has no second strike capability.’
      • ‘The administration began a conventional military build-up, and increased the number and types of tactical nuclear weapons.’
      • ‘Two new tactical rifles are now available from companies which were once known as handgun manufacturers.’
      • ‘Close-range striking or longer-range missile or projectile weapons provide tactical hitting or firepower.’
      • ‘Rehearsals and supervision are critical when supporting tactical operations.’
      • ‘Six modules designed to support tactical air operations arrive and are placed at the far end of the ramp.’
      • ‘Numbered air forces are tactical echelons, providing operational leadership and supervision.’
      • ‘With production under way, the timing was right to shift attention to the tactical missile threat.’
      • ‘We need a binding and verifiable agreement on tactical nuclear weapons immediately.’
      • ‘If it turned out to be a large enemy unit, then the division would employ a larger force as well as artillery and tactical air support.’
      • ‘There were virtually no tactical attack bombers of any value.’
      • ‘The depot is the Army's center of technical excellence for air defense and tactical missile ground support equipment.’
      • ‘The Air Force objected to the Army having such a capability because tactical air support was the role of the Air Force.’
      • ‘He announced to the world the Soviet Union was building secret missile bases in Cuba to house tactical nuclear weapons.’
      • ‘This was also the war where chemical agents were first openly used as tactical weapons.’
      • ‘Luftwaffe tactical support for ground operations during the rest of the campaign remained spotty and ineffectual.’
      • ‘Washington was not aware of the presence of these tactical nuclear weapons and delivery systems in Cuba.’
      • ‘The center also plans, directs and controls the sorties that provide troops with a constant tactical air support.’
      • ‘Tenacious dedication to the simple but demanding task, plus tactical air support, allowed the division to survive.’
  • 2Showing adroit planning; aiming at an end beyond the immediate action.

    ‘in a tactical retreat, she moved into a hotel with her daughters’
    • ‘The problem is that as a small company, it needs to be smarter and more tactical to get its product into the hands of the right people at the right time.’
    • ‘That's how humanity works, we only fix things after they've gone wrong, we're awful at tactical planning.’
    • ‘Gabriel often relied more upon cunning and tactical exploitation than raw power which the others seemed to possess.’
    • ‘Thatcher lost nothing, making only a tactical retreat from a skirmish to prepare for the real battle.’
    • ‘Many of the old inadequacies returned: the hesitancy in decision-making, the impoverished tactical acumen.’
    • ‘On the most burning issue, the war in Iraq, Kerry's differences with Bush are purely tactical.’
    • ‘This tactical retreat by the government will do little to resolve the problem.’
    • ‘The apparently mild response in New Delhi, at least at present, is purely tactical.’
    • ‘In tactical planning on strategic and key issues for the country we can rely for a common position on parties from the left to the right.’
    • ‘Phil Howell produced good tactical kicking and Saracens led 0-29 at the interval.’
    • ‘In the final analysis, the factional differences no matter how bitter are purely tactical.’
    • ‘The police accept that tactical errors were made during the first week and a half of the investigation.’
    • ‘Leading any cricketing side calls for tactical acumen, that ability to create situations and victories.’
    • ‘Remember, there aren't many who will trust you for a while, so your moves may become more tactical than diplomatic for a while, but that's okay.’
    • ‘Many players have tactical abilities far beyond their rating, but are positionally pathetic.’
    • ‘McEwen, for his part, did a great tactical final kilometer to win that one.’
    • ‘He will be responsible for the planning and execution of tactical marketing strategies.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that he has a sound tactical or strategic sense.’
    • ‘Increasingly, data are a vital component in strategic and tactical planning.’
    • ‘Perhaps Shakespeare felt that a judicious tactical retreat following rehearsal criticism was in order, but that does not brand the line a mistake.’
    calculated, planned, plotted, prudent, strategic, politic, diplomatic, judicious, shrewd, skilful, adroit, clever, smart, cunning, artful, wily
    View synonyms
  • 3British (of voting) aimed at preventing the strongest candidate from winning by supporting the next strongest, without regard to one's true political allegiance.

    ‘Labour supporters in the city organized a tactical voting campaign’
    • ‘Now while such achievements are laudable, tactical vote swapping should, if it is to be organised by a third party, be run on a non-partisan basis.’
    • ‘There are vote-swapping websites to coordinate the efforts of tactical voters.’
    • ‘Where, for instance, was the effort to encourage tactical voting from nationalists?’
    • ‘It will be interesting to see if there is a detectable tactical vote today.’
    • ‘The party benefited from the sharp fall in the Tory vote and from tactical voting to win 46 seats in 1997, 10 of them in Scotland.’
    • ‘In other words, Labour would have had a landslide election victory in 1997 even if no tactical vote had been cast.’
    • ‘The situation has gone beyond tactical voting.’
    • ‘They have called for tactical voting in north and south Swindon to prevent the Tories regaining the town.’
    • ‘More dangerous would be a rebellion by tactical voters.’
    • ‘With the aim of winning a legislative majority, both camps have made vote allocation and tactical voting their campaign strategy of choice.’
    • ‘Or they might go for the old school of anti-Tory tactical vote.’
    • ‘They are not getting a tactical protest vote - there is real enthusiasm among BNP voters and little in the way of active opposition to them.’
    • ‘But if the effect of his views is difficult to gauge, the effect of tactical voting is not.’
    • ‘The message emerging from Hamilton South and Ayr is that protest and tactical votes are shifting voters dramatically.’
    • ‘In spite of be a Labour Party member, and living in a staunch Labour area to boot, out came my tactical vote.’
    • ‘Tactical voting offers huge advantages in getting the maximum representation.’
    • ‘In this election, it was Iraq - an obstacle that stood between many Lib Dems and a tactical, anti-Tory vote for Labour.’
    • ‘One reason for this is that in many seats tactical voting is pointless.’
    • ‘The simple system in which each voter gives a single vote to their favourite candidate can also lead to tactical voting.’
    • ‘Perhaps someone with the time and technical know-how will construct a website for progressive tactical voters.’


Late 16th century (in the sense ‘relating to military or naval tactics’): from Greek taktikos (see tactic) + -al.