Definition of war in English:


nounPlural wars

mass noun
  • 1A state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country.

    ‘Japan declared war on Germany’
    ‘the two countries were at war for the next eight years’
    count noun ‘I fought in two wars’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They have their armies and their weapons and you look at it as two armies at war.’
    • ‘With the outbreak of war the new Commonwealth of Australia found itself willingly at war for the empire.’
    • ‘We are brought briefly into the lives of these Marines at war and just as quickly they are taken away.’
    • ‘To put it another way, if neither side had nuclear weapons, they would be at war right now.’
    • ‘According to Clausewitz, the main objective of an army at war is to defeat the opposing army.’
    • ‘One of the concerns today which is most talked about is pacifism, is the world at war and its opposite, pacifism.’
    • ‘The government's going to close us down and cut their military down when we're at war.’
    • ‘I would disagree that a context of declared war is necessary for a target to be military.’
    • ‘My job here recording the lives of these soldiers at war is nearly done, and it will be time to say goodbye.’
    • ‘We will still be at war, with an enemy which becomes more clearly defined as all Muslims, and everyone else not subject to America.’
    • ‘It also focused on some general war and military affairs problems and on trends in weaponry.’
    • ‘We are at war, and the Army intends to keep its soldiers equipped with the best gear available.’
    • ‘If he believes himself to be at war, then isn't it appropriate to fight that war?’
    • ‘We are a nation at war and the Army is carrying the majority of that load for the nation.’
    • ‘The country at war catapults journalism into the spotlight like at no other time.’
    • ‘If Australia was not at or about to be at war, the tactical voter's decision would be easy this weekend.’
    • ‘Japan has refused to pay reparations on grounds that Japan and Korea were not at war during the colonial period.’
    conflict, warfare, combat, fighting, struggle, armed conflict, action, military action, bloodshed, contest, tussle
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    1. 1.1 A state of competition or hostility between different people or groups.
      ‘she was at war with her parents’
      count noun ‘a price war among tour operators’
      • ‘The battle for control of Novar, the industrial conglomerate, has all the makings of a highly charged hostile bid war.’
      • ‘In short, marketing is war where competition is the enemy and the customer is the ground to be won.’
      • ‘It renders competition between countries into something like war by other means.’
      • ‘Have they any place in a world struggling to move away from war and confrontation into a new sort of globalism and co-operation?’
      • ‘Though originating in resource competition, the war is now heavily overlaid by race.’
      • ‘Through us they wage viral war competing for space in the human experience.’
      • ‘Everyday we are engaged in a low intensity social war as we struggle to maintain our humanity and dignity.’
      • ‘She craved a contest with the miners, and was fully prepared for war.’
      • ‘Mr McQuaid says while the inflation battle has been won, we may have lost the competitiveness war.’
      • ‘These shouldn't be seen through a prism of diplomatic standards and as metaphors for hostility and 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.’
      • ‘One such bridging concept is struggle, which incorporates notions of both competition and war.’
      • ‘Like most brewers with exposure to emerging markets, the bidding war for Bavaria has been hotly contested.’
      • ‘Our brains are a combination of the two, which are perpetually at war within our skull.’
    2. 1.2 A sustained campaign against an undesirable situation or activity.
      ‘the authorities are waging war against smuggling’
      count noun ‘a war on drugs’
      • ‘The war on slums was a campaign in the real war.’
      • ‘Parliament was asked to vote for war on the assurance weapons of mass destruction existed.’
      • ‘Her mission will be to wage war on junk food and promote the ‘five portions a day’ message.’
      • ‘The events in Kashmir lay bare the hypocrisy of the U.S. war on terrorism.’
      • ‘Critics say the bill is just the latest assault on the ongoing war on our country's middle class.’
      • ‘Have we done enough to support President Putin in his own war on terror?’
      • ‘Other participants see the education battle as merely the front of the Party's war on tradition.’
      • ‘The war on terrorism had something to do with this increase, but it doesn't account for all of it.’
      • ‘The war on terror is harming some of the world's poorest people, and - guess what?’
      • ‘Sutton's police chief has pledged to make the borough the safest in London by waging war on career criminals and drug traders.’
      • ‘Is it your sense that it's going to get worse before it gets better, this whole war on terrorism?’
      • ‘The cost of carrying such project would be infinitesimally smaller that the cost of present war on terrorism.’
      • ‘This war on terror has in many ways brought out the finest qualities of the American people.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘None of this is to say that we should not be involved in this war on terror.’
      • ‘Police have unveiled a new weapon in their war on bogus officials who prey on vulnerable pensioners - paper napkins.’
      • ‘The last council became bigoted against cars and squandered vast amounts of council tax payer's money waging war on them.’
      • ‘Police have announced a new battleground for their war on anti-social behaviour in the borough.’
      • ‘It continues unabated despite the national security interest in this war on terror.’
      • ‘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.’
      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 another’
    figurative ‘conflicting emotions warred within her’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As these images warred in my mind, my thoughts just started flowing, and a poem formed.’
    • ‘Frustration and uncertainty had warred within him as he awaited Jerry's arrival home.’
    • ‘As both books well demonstrate, the organizations warred with each other as much as they worked against a common enemy.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Greeks (under Alexander the Great), Persians, Medians, Sassanians, Parthians warred there.’
    • ‘Every emotion he'd ever known warred within his head and gut, twisting his insides about with sickening force.’
    • ‘Anticipation, want, fear, and affection warred within her.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Even though for centuries Spaniards and Arabs warred against each other, the basic way of life remains similar.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And some of the rivalries were extremely strong; none so like with Assassin's Cliff, but other holdings occasionally warred against each other.’
    • ‘The United States also warred against and seriously weakened the Buddhist church movement, the second largest constituency organization in the South.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Women have warred, and still do, often bitterly, over what art qualifies as ‘feminist.’’
    • ‘Harnak made himself speak calmly, but disbelief and hope warred in him.’
    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.

      ‘he joined the RAF before the country went to war’
      ‘of the four brothers who went to war, only Thomas survived’
      • ‘They are also the same mob who you and I go to war to fight for freedom and democracy, but not them.’
      • ‘Taiko is the ancient art of drumming that was performed by the Japanese on the battlefield before going to war.’
      • ‘During the Second World War, they also went to war and they fought the best way they could.’
      • ‘I am unhappy about US actions in the world, I am unhappy about going to war and attacking civilians.’
      • ‘But it's not like we're going to go to war to fight for the cheeky girl's honour.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The argument is not that democracies never go to war; democracies have gone to war as often as have non-democracies.’
      • ‘My father let his anger run away with him, he went to war against Egypt and attacked Egypt.’
      • ‘Questions are piling up about going to war or not going to war, with one or both.’
      • ‘No one just goes to war anymore, in fact no one even declares it.’
      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.

      ‘I did all I could to dissuade him from going to the wars’
      • ‘When John Bull goes to the wars he does not count the cost.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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’.’
  • be in the wars

    • informal Be (or have been) injured.

      ‘Roebuck continues to be in the wars and suffered a broken jaw’
      • ‘Noel Casey, who was in the wars in the first minute when he was the victim of a wild ‘pull’ soloed through for the second before Damien Roberts got Carlow off the mark.’
      • ‘Embsay were in the wars when they entertained Denholme, who were making their first visit to Shires Lane.’
      • ‘Lesley is in the wars again this time with a smashed wisdom tooth.’
      • ‘I hesitate to mention this when poor Gert is in the wars, but I have hurt myself.’
      • ‘A woman held hostage by gunmen in Iraq for 24 hours is on her way home today - but will be in the wars with her mum!’
      • ‘He produced an absolutely stunning performance in Monday's third round when he was in the wars at the bend and was six lengths behind Jet Spray at halfway.’
      • ‘Both were in the wars during the quite torrid clash with Clare in Ennis last weekend.’
      • ‘Withers isn't the only player who has been in the wars.’
      • ‘Waterford jockey, David Casey, was in the wars again last week as he suffered a very bad fall at Fairyhouse which will put him out of action for quite a while.’
      • ‘Cookridge youth Joe ‘Bomber’ Dabill was coughing and sneezing throughout the contest, and his father Mal was in the wars after fitting the wrong near tyre.’
  • war clouds

    • Used to refer to a threatening situation of instability in international relations.

      ‘the war clouds were looming’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘While the inter-Korean contacts are turning into political stunts, the war clouds are thickening over the Korean Peninsula.’
      • ‘Whenever war clouds hang over any part of the world, inter-religious prayers are conducted here by a committed group of Gandhians.’
      • ‘The war clouds began moving away the past week, so we can breathe a little easily.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It looks like just as monsoon clouds gather, the war clouds are dispersing.’
      • ‘We had said war clouds were hovering, but sometimes lightning strikes even if the weather is clear.’
      • ‘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.’
  • war of attrition

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘In the wake of the tsunami that claimed over 250,000 lives in Aceh, the military has continued its war of attrition.’
      • ‘He planned on this kind of war of attrition from the minute he knew he was militarily finished.’
      • ‘They have no education, no job and are prepared to sacrifice their lives in a war of attrition against the US military machine.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Neglected and drab, this once-grand Regency mansion had been the battlefield for a war of attrition between John's mother and father.’
      • ‘I have put myself through a war of attrition, willing the other side to win.’
      • ‘The eight-year war of attrition which followed cost thousands of lives on both sides.’
  • war of words

    • A prolonged, often acrimonious, debate.

      ‘the political war of words over tax’
      • ‘Recently he has been involved in so many wars of words that he is battle weary.’
      • ‘Project Sudan is waging a war of words against Canadian oil company Talisman Energy Inc.’
      • ‘Rather than sparking debate on the issue, it sparked a war of words between the various political parties.’
      • ‘Becker, surprisingly, did not immediately jump into the war of words with guns blazing.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘New Zealand waged a war of words in their own unique diplomatic style.’
      • ‘East Riding Council was last year drawn into a public war of words with Education Secretary Charles Clarke over the funding issue.’
      • ‘The re-release of Suspicious Minds has caused something of a war of words to break out between Elvis and Beatles fans in Scotland.’
      • ‘Legalised brothels and drug raves in parks have sparked a political war of words in Manchester.’
      argument, row, fight, disagreement, difference of opinion, dissension, falling-out
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  • war to end all wars

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

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was called the Great War, 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.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her natural inclination was to be helpful, but she didn't understand the purpose behind this war to end all wars.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We stand firm in the face of the war to end all wars and say in unison, ‘never again.’’
      • ‘My life began in those optimistic years following the war to end all wars, when good times were to roll forever.’


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