Definition of war in US English:


nounPlural wars

  • 1A state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state.

    ‘Japan declared war on Germany’
    ‘the two countries had been at war for six years’
    • ‘Japan has refused to pay reparations on grounds that Japan and Korea were not at war during the colonial period.’
    • ‘We are a nation at war and the Army is carrying the majority of that load for the nation.’
    • ‘They have their armies and their weapons and you look at it as two armies at war.’
    • ‘The government's going to close us down and cut their military down when we're at war.’
    • ‘According to Clausewitz, the main objective of an army at war is to defeat the opposing army.’
    • ‘We are brought briefly into the lives of these Marines at war and just as quickly they are taken away.’
    • ‘The country at war catapults journalism into the spotlight like at no other time.’
    • ‘My job here recording the lives of these soldiers at war is nearly done, and it will be time to say goodbye.’
    • ‘Nowhere in Wallis' piece can I find an acknowledgement of the hard fact that we are at war.’
    • ‘It sees the British Prime Minister's private army at war with Russian warlords and renegade spies.’
    • ‘We are at war, and the Army intends to keep its soldiers equipped with the best gear available.’
    • ‘We will still be at war, with an enemy which becomes more clearly defined as all Muslims, and everyone else not subject to America.’
    • ‘If you feel that you have solid evidence that our being at war is a better thing than our not being at war, please provide it.’
    • ‘To put it another way, if neither side had nuclear weapons, they would be at war right now.’
    • ‘If Australia was not at or about to be at war, the tactical voter's decision would be easy this weekend.’
    • ‘One of the concerns today which is most talked about is pacifism, is the world at war and its opposite, pacifism.’
    • ‘If he believes himself to be at war, then isn't it appropriate to fight that war?’
    • ‘With the outbreak of war the new Commonwealth of Australia found itself willingly at war for the empire.’
    • ‘It also focused on some general war and military affairs problems and on trends in weaponry.’
    • ‘I would disagree that a context of declared war is necessary for a target to be military.’
    conflict, warfare, combat, fighting, struggle, armed conflict, action, military action, bloodshed, contest, tussle
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    1. 1.1 A particular armed conflict.
      ‘after the war, they immigrated to America’
      • ‘In Thursday's Style section, WaPo correspondent Thomas Ricks reviews the Smithsonian's new exhibit on America's wars.’
      • ‘A highly decorated World War I flying ace, he was a pilot's pilot when even the War Department wasn't sure what role the airplane would play in future wars.’
      • ‘The key reasons for opposing the war with Iraq shifted over the weeks leading up to conflict.’
      • ‘While there, he's going to meet with the country's prime minister and the queen and thank Denmark for its contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.’
      • ‘In the years immediately preceding the French wars of religion Ronsard had argued against armed conflict.’
    2. 1.2 A state of competition, conflict, or hostility between different people or groups.
      ‘she was at war with her parents’
      ‘a price war among discount retailers’
      • ‘The battle for control of Novar, the industrial conglomerate, has all the makings of a highly charged hostile bid war.’
      • ‘For many a Leo-Aries, life is seen as war, and competition can be everything.’
      • ‘Today, every human being battles against the odds and faces the war of competition.’
      • ‘Like most brewers with exposure to emerging markets, the bidding war for Bavaria has been hotly contested.’
      • ‘She craved a contest with the miners, and was fully prepared for war.’
      • ‘Everyday we are engaged in a low intensity social war as we struggle to maintain our humanity and dignity.’
      • ‘Have they any place in a world struggling to move away from war and confrontation into a new sort of globalism and co-operation?’
      • ‘It renders competition between countries into something like war by other means.’
      • ‘Though originating in resource competition, the war is now heavily overlaid by race.’
      • ‘These shouldn't be seen through a prism of diplomatic standards and as metaphors for hostility and war.’
      • ‘Through us they wage viral war competing for space in the human experience.’
      • ‘In short, marketing is war where competition is the enemy and the customer is the ground to be won.’
      • ‘One such bridging concept is struggle, which incorporates notions of both competition and war.’
      • ‘Mr McQuaid says while the inflation battle has been won, we may have lost the competitiveness war.’
      • ‘Our brains are a combination of the two, which are perpetually at war within our skull.’
    3. 1.3 A sustained effort to deal with or end a particular unpleasant or undesirable situation or condition.
      ‘the authorities are waging war against all forms of smuggling’
      ‘a war on drugs’
      • ‘Other participants see the education battle as merely the front of the Party's war on tradition.’
      • ‘The war on litter louts was stepped up this week as Bradford Council submitted a bid to help keep the city's streets free of chewing gum.’
      • ‘The events in Kashmir lay bare the hypocrisy of the U.S. war on terrorism.’
      • ‘None of this is to say that we should not be involved in this war on terror.’
      • ‘The war on terrorism had something to do with this increase, but it doesn't account for all of it.’
      • ‘The war on slums was a campaign in the real war.’
      • ‘It continues unabated despite the national security interest in this war on terror.’
      • ‘Parliament was asked to vote for war on the assurance weapons of mass destruction existed.’
      • ‘Police have unveiled a new weapon in their war on bogus officials who prey on vulnerable pensioners - paper napkins.’
      • ‘Is it your sense that it's going to get worse before it gets better, this whole war on terrorism?’
      • ‘Police have announced a new battleground for their war on anti-social behaviour in the borough.’
      • ‘The war on terror is harming some of the world's poorest people, and - guess what?’
      • ‘Critics say the bill is just the latest assault on the ongoing war on our country's middle class.’
      • ‘Sutton's police chief has pledged to make the borough the safest in London by waging war on career criminals and drug traders.’
      • ‘Her mission will be to wage war on junk food and promote the ‘five portions a day’ message.’
      • ‘This war on terror has in many ways brought out the finest qualities of the American people.’
      • ‘The last council became bigoted against cars and squandered vast amounts of council tax payer's money waging war on them.’
      • ‘Manchester's war on binge drinking has been held up as a model for other cities as a new report reveals the true cost of alcohol abuse.’
      • ‘Have we done enough to support President Putin in his own war on terror?’
      • ‘The cost of carrying such project would be infinitesimally smaller that the cost of present war on terrorism.’
      campaign, crusade, battle, fight, struggle, movement, drive, mission
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verbwars, warred, warring

[no object]
  • Engage in a war.

    ‘small states warred against each other’
    figurative ‘conflicting emotions warred within her’
    • ‘And some of the rivalries were extremely strong; none so like with Assassin's Cliff, but other holdings occasionally warred against each other.’
    • ‘Every emotion he'd ever known warred within his head and gut, twisting his insides about with sickening force.’
    • ‘The United States also warred against and seriously weakened the Buddhist church movement, the second largest constituency organization in the South.’
    • ‘I warred with the idol-worshipping hill chiefs,’
    • ‘Every administration has warred with reporters, but his is the first to challenge the very legitimacy of the press.’
    • ‘As both books well demonstrate, the organizations warred with each other as much as they worked against a common enemy.’
    • ‘Her quicksilver changes of intent, complex multiple qualities, polyrhythms, and opposing body parts warred with Anderson's weeping strings to create a moving picture of grief.’
    • ‘Even though for centuries Spaniards and Arabs warred against each other, the basic way of life remains similar.’
    • ‘As these images warred in my mind, my thoughts just started flowing, and a poem formed.’
    • ‘Harnak made himself speak calmly, but disbelief and hope warred in him.’
    • ‘Greeks (under Alexander the Great), Persians, Medians, Sassanians, Parthians warred there.’
    • ‘Anticipation, want, fear, and affection warred within her.’
    • ‘Women have warred, and still do, often bitterly, over what art qualifies as ‘feminist.’’
    • ‘Frustration and uncertainty had warred within him as he awaited Jerry's arrival home.’
    • ‘William Blake is an obvious and accepted precursor, for his painting skill, for his borderline madness, and for his construction of a private world warred over by the forces of innocence and experience.’
    • ‘These are people who have been practical politicians but they represent folks in Iraq who have warred with each other from the beginning of the country.’
    • ‘Gale then tried to scowl at him, but the amusement was visible in her narrowed eyes and the hints of a smile warred with her frown.’
    • ‘For centuries, it has played out: the Greeks warred with the Macedonians much as the Chinese now oppress the Tibetans, and the Hutus fight the Tsutsi.’
    • ‘It seems that despite all our best efforts to revitalize our communities, we'd somehow traveled back to the time when drug gangs warred on our streets and gunshots kept us awake at night.’
    • ‘Princes in their capitals concentrated secular and spiritual power and conducted rites for their principalities, and they warred for subjects, booty and land, and control of the sea trade.’
    fight, battle, combat, wage war, make war, be at war, be in conflict, conduct a war, do battle, join battle, take the field, take up arms
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  • go to war

    • Declare, begin, or see active service in a war.

      • ‘The argument is not that democracies never go to war; democracies have gone to war as often as have non-democracies.’
      • ‘But it's not like we're going to go to war to fight for the cheeky girl's honour.’
      • ‘No one just goes to war anymore, in fact no one even declares it.’
      • ‘It's hard to fake an attack, but it's easy to hype up an argument about why we should go to war without having been attacked.’
      • ‘Questions are piling up about going to war or not going to war, with one or both.’
      • ‘During the Second World War, they also went to war and they fought the best way they could.’
      • ‘My father let his anger run away with him, he went to war against Egypt and attacked Egypt.’
      • ‘Taiko is the ancient art of drumming that was performed by the Japanese on the battlefield before going to war.’
      • ‘I am unhappy about US actions in the world, I am unhappy about going to war and attacking civilians.’
      • ‘They are also the same mob who you and I go to war to fight for freedom and democracy, but not them.’
      battle, do battle, give battle, wage war, go to war, make war, take up arms
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  • go to the wars

    • archaic Serve as a soldier.

      • ‘Let us hope that volume two gets religion (conspicuously absent here) and goes to the wars, from which the fourteenth century has plenty to choose.’
      • ‘Susan goes on to say that Partridge further said that Sophia was ‘dying for love of the young squire, and that he was going to the wars to get rid of you’.’
      • ‘The archer looks sensitively out of a stygian background, his steel breastplate a reflective pool of foreboding; an uneasy, valedictory picture of a youth going to the wars.’
      • ‘When John Bull goes to the wars he does not count the cost.’
  • war clouds

    • A threatening situation of instability in international relations.

      ‘the war clouds were looming’
      • ‘The war clouds began moving away the past week, so we can breathe a little easily.’
      • ‘We had said war clouds were hovering, but sometimes lightning strikes even if the weather is clear.’
      • ‘While the inter-Korean contacts are turning into political stunts, the war clouds are thickening over the Korean Peninsula.’
      • ‘What was going through your mind as you saw war clouds develop?’
      • ‘She had been born in Germany and was attending a German School in Prague when war clouds began to gather.’
      • ‘As the war clouds over India and Pakistan begin to drift away, we can perhaps afford the luxury of turning our attention to less life-threatening issues.’
      • ‘It looks like just as monsoon clouds gather, the war clouds are dispersing.’
      • ‘Whenever war clouds hang over any part of the world, inter-religious prayers are conducted here by a committed group of Gandhians.’
      • ‘As war clouds gather in the hellish heat of summer, and the Kashmir tragedy continues to unfold, it is worth pondering the state of affairs we find ourselves in.’
      • ‘Moreover, they gave the impression that they were not serious in making the yagna a success when there were war clouds on the borders with Pakistan.’
  • war of attrition

    • A prolonged war or period of conflict during which each side seeks to gradually wear out the other by a series of small-scale actions.

      • ‘Another heavy struggle for the clock, with one team finally imposing its will in a war of attrition, minus the stand-to and the morning hate?’
      • ‘I have put myself through a war of attrition, willing the other side to win.’
      • ‘The combat is certainly much better than it was last year, so it's a shame that some of the boss battles turn into wars of attrition with petty single-hit attacks.’
      • ‘He planned on this kind of war of attrition from the minute he knew he was militarily finished.’
      • ‘In the wake of the tsunami that claimed over 250,000 lives in Aceh, the military has continued its war of attrition.’
      • ‘Neglected and drab, this once-grand Regency mansion had been the battlefield for a war of attrition between John's mother and father.’
      • ‘They will also seek to engage the New Zealand front five in a war of attrition.’
      • ‘The midfield sector at this stage of the game resembled a war of attrition with neither side gaining a stronghold.’
      • ‘They have no education, no job and are prepared to sacrifice their lives in a war of attrition against the US military machine.’
      • ‘The eight-year war of attrition which followed cost thousands of lives on both sides.’
  • war of words

    • A prolonged debate conducted by means of the spoken or printed word.

      • ‘In the end, the children are forced to enforce a list of rules to ensure peace in the house, and put an end to flaming tempers and an unending war of words.’
      • ‘Recently he has been involved in so many wars of words that he is battle weary.’
      • ‘East Riding Council was last year drawn into a public war of words with Education Secretary Charles Clarke over the funding issue.’
      • ‘New Zealand waged a war of words in their own unique diplomatic style.’
      • ‘The tenants have not traded from the 19th Century riverside building since then, and have been locked in a war of words with the council.’
      • ‘Becker, surprisingly, did not immediately jump into the war of words with guns blazing.’
      • ‘Legalised brothels and drug raves in parks have sparked a political war of words in Manchester.’
      • ‘Rather than sparking debate on the issue, it sparked a war of words between the various political parties.’
      • ‘The re-release of Suspicious Minds has caused something of a war of words to break out between Elvis and Beatles fans in Scotland.’
      • ‘Project Sudan is waging a war of words against Canadian oil company Talisman Energy Inc.’
      argument, row, fight, disagreement, difference of opinion, dissension, falling-out
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  • war to end all wars

    • A war, especially World War I, regarded as making subsequent wars unnecessary.

      • ‘Eighty-six years ago the war to end all wars ended with an armistice signed in the forests of Compiègne by the Allies and Germans in 1918.’
      • ‘We stand firm in the face of the war to end all wars and say in unison, ‘never again.’’
      • ‘It was called the Great War, the war to end all wars.’
      • ‘It's most ironic in 2001 looking back that this was what they believed: that the First World War was the war to end all wars.’
      • ‘The First World War was dubbed the war to end all wars.’
      • ‘A central thread runs through the otherwise diverse collection: the pride the families had for these men who sacrificed all in what was hoped to be ‘the war to end all wars.’’
      • ‘Meanwhile, the promise to pensioners who fought in World War Two - a war to end all wars - and to produce a country fit for heroes seems once more to have gone up in smoke.’
      • ‘Her natural inclination was to be helpful, but she didn't understand the purpose behind this war to end all wars.’
      • ‘My life began in those optimistic years following the war to end all wars, when good times were to roll forever.’
      • ‘Nobody, least of all the archduke himself, would have been aware of his car predicting the exact date and year the war to end all wars finally finished.’


Late Old English werre, from an Anglo-Norman French variant of Old French guerre, from a Germanic base shared by worse.