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

    ‘in a tactical retreat, she moved into a hotel with her daughters’
    • ‘In the final analysis, the factional differences no matter how bitter are purely tactical.’
    • ‘Many of the old inadequacies returned: the hesitancy in decision-making, the impoverished tactical acumen.’
    • ‘Phil Howell produced good tactical kicking and Saracens led 0-29 at the interval.’
    • ‘The apparently mild response in New Delhi, at least at present, is purely tactical.’
    • ‘On the most burning issue, the war in Iraq, Kerry's differences with Bush are purely tactical.’
    • ‘Increasingly, data are a vital component in strategic and tactical planning.’
    • ‘The police accept that tactical errors were made during the first week and a half of the investigation.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that he has a sound tactical or strategic sense.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Leading any cricketing side calls for tactical acumen, that ability to create situations and victories.’
    • ‘Gabriel often relied more upon cunning and tactical exploitation than raw power which the others seemed to possess.’
    • ‘He will be responsible for the planning and execution of tactical marketing strategies.’
    • ‘Many players have tactical abilities far beyond their rating, but are positionally pathetic.’
    • ‘Perhaps Shakespeare felt that a judicious tactical retreat following rehearsal criticism was in order, but that does not brand the line a mistake.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘That's how humanity works, we only fix things after they've gone wrong, we're awful at tactical planning.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘McEwen, for his part, did a great tactical final kilometer to win that one.’
    • ‘This tactical retreat by the government will do little to resolve the problem.’
    • ‘Thatcher lost nothing, making only a tactical retreat from a skirmish to prepare for the real battle.’
    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’
    • ‘Where, for instance, was the effort to encourage tactical voting from nationalists?’
    • ‘In other words, Labour would have had a landslide election victory in 1997 even if no tactical vote had been cast.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They have called for tactical voting in north and south Swindon to prevent the Tories regaining the town.’
    • ‘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 spite of be a Labour Party member, and living in a staunch Labour area to boot, out came my tactical vote.’
    • ‘The message emerging from Hamilton South and Ayr is that protest and tactical votes are shifting voters dramatically.’
    • ‘It will be interesting to see if there is a detectable tactical vote today.’
    • ‘The situation has gone beyond tactical voting.’
    • ‘With the aim of winning a legislative majority, both camps have made vote allocation and tactical voting their campaign strategy of choice.’
    • ‘The simple system in which each voter gives a single vote to their favourite candidate can also lead to tactical voting.’
    • ‘Or they might go for the old school of anti-Tory tactical vote.’
    • ‘In this election, it was Iraq - an obstacle that stood between many Lib Dems and a tactical, anti-Tory vote for Labour.’
    • ‘There are vote-swapping websites to coordinate the efforts of tactical voters.’
    • ‘But if the effect of his views is difficult to gauge, the effect of tactical voting is not.’
    • ‘Perhaps someone with the time and technical know-how will construct a website for progressive tactical voters.’
    • ‘More dangerous would be a rebellion by tactical voters.’
    • ‘Tactical voting offers huge advantages in getting the maximum representation.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘One reason for this is that in many seats tactical voting is pointless.’


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