Definition of war in English:



  • 1[mass noun] A 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’
    • ‘Nowhere in Wallis' piece can I find an acknowledgement of the hard fact that we are at war.’
    • ‘To put it another way, if neither side had nuclear weapons, they would be at war right now.’
    • ‘It sees the British Prime Minister's private army at war with Russian warlords and renegade spies.’
    • ‘We are a nation at war and the Army is carrying the majority of that load for the nation.’
    • ‘According to Clausewitz, the main objective of an army at war is to defeat the opposing army.’
    • ‘Japan has refused to pay reparations on grounds that Japan and Korea were not at war during the colonial period.’
    • ‘The government's going to close us down and cut their military down when we're at war.’
    • ‘With the outbreak of war the new Commonwealth of Australia found itself willingly at war for the empire.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘One of the concerns today which is most talked about is pacifism, is the world at war and its opposite, pacifism.’
    • ‘We will still be at war, with an enemy which becomes more clearly defined as all Muslims, and everyone else not subject to America.’
    • ‘My job here recording the lives of these soldiers at war is nearly done, and it will be time to say goodbye.’
    • ‘The country at war catapults journalism into the spotlight like at no other time.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘I would disagree that a context of declared war is necessary for a target to be military.’
    • ‘It also focused on some general war and military affairs problems and on trends in weaponry.’
    • ‘We are brought briefly into the lives of these Marines at war and just as quickly they are taken away.’
    • ‘If Australia was not at or about to be at war, the tactical voter's decision would be easy this weekend.’
    • ‘They have their armies and their weapons and you look at it as two armies at war.’
    conflict, warfare, combat, fighting, struggle, armed conflict, action, military action, bloodshed, contest, tussle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A 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’
      • ‘These shouldn't be seen through a prism of diplomatic standards and as metaphors for hostility and war.’
      • ‘Everyday we are engaged in a low intensity social war as we struggle to maintain our humanity and dignity.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Through us they wage viral war competing for space in the human experience.’
      • ‘It renders competition between countries into something like war by other means.’
      • ‘In short, marketing is war where competition is the enemy and the customer is the ground to be won.’
      • ‘The battle for control of Novar, the industrial conglomerate, has all the makings of a highly charged hostile bid war.’
      • ‘Like most brewers with exposure to emerging markets, the bidding war for Bavaria has been hotly contested.’
      • ‘Have they any place in a world struggling to move away from war and confrontation into a new sort of globalism and co-operation?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Though originating in resource competition, the war is now heavily overlaid by race.’
      • ‘One such bridging concept is struggle, which incorporates notions of both competition and war.’
      • ‘She craved a contest with the miners, and was fully prepared for war.’
    2. 1.2A sustained campaign against an undesirable situation or activity.
      ‘the authorities are waging war against smuggling’
      [count noun] ‘a war on drugs’
      • ‘This war on terror has in many ways brought out the finest qualities of the American people.’
      • ‘The war on terrorism had something to do with this increase, but it doesn't account for all of it.’
      • ‘Critics say the bill is just the latest assault on the ongoing war on our country's middle class.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Other participants see the education battle as merely the front of the Party's war on tradition.’
      • ‘Police have unveiled a new weapon in their war on bogus officials who prey on vulnerable pensioners - paper napkins.’
      • ‘The war on slums was a campaign in the real war.’
      • ‘Is it your sense that it's going to get worse before it gets better, this whole war on terrorism?’
      • ‘Have we done enough to support President Putin in his own war on terror?’
      • ‘Sutton's police chief has pledged to make the borough the safest in London by waging war on career criminals and drug traders.’
      • ‘The cost of carrying such project would be infinitesimally smaller that the cost of present war on terrorism.’
      • ‘The war on terror is harming some of the world's poorest people, and - guess what?’
      • ‘The events in Kashmir lay bare the hypocrisy of the U.S. war on terrorism.’
      • ‘The last council became bigoted against cars and squandered vast amounts of council tax payer's money waging war on them.’
      • ‘Her mission will be to wage war on junk food and promote the ‘five portions a day’ message.’
      • ‘Police have announced a new battleground for their war on anti-social behaviour in the borough.’
      • ‘Parliament was asked to vote for war on the assurance weapons of mass destruction existed.’
      • ‘None of this is to say that we should not be involved in this war on terror.’
      • ‘It continues unabated despite the national security interest in this war on terror.’
      campaign, crusade, battle, fight, struggle, movement, drive, mission
      View synonyms


  • Engage in a war.

    ‘small states warred against each another’
    figurative ‘conflicting emotions warred within her’
    • ‘I warred with the idol-worshipping hill chiefs,’
    • ‘Every emotion he'd ever known warred within his head and gut, twisting his insides about with sickening force.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Women have warred, and still do, often bitterly, over what art qualifies as ‘feminist.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As these images warred in my mind, my thoughts just started flowing, and a poem formed.’
    • ‘Anticipation, want, fear, and affection warred within her.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Even though for centuries Spaniards and Arabs warred against each other, the basic way of life remains similar.’
    • ‘Every administration has warred with reporters, but his is the first to challenge the very legitimacy of the press.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Harnak made himself speak calmly, but disbelief and hope warred in him.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Greeks (under Alexander the Great), Persians, Medians, Sassanians, Parthians warred there.’
    • ‘Frustration and uncertainty had warred within him as he awaited Jerry's arrival home.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As both books well demonstrate, the organizations warred with each other as much as they worked against a common enemy.’
    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
    feud, quarrel, struggle, strive, contend, grapple, wrangle, tilt, cross swords, lock horns, come to blows
    attack, engage, clash with, encounter, take on, set to, skirmish with, grapple with
    be at each other's throats, fight like cat and dog
    View synonyms


  • 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’
      • ‘During the Second World War, they also went to war and they fought the best way they could.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They are also the same mob who you and I go to war to fight for freedom and democracy, but not them.’
      • ‘Questions are piling up about going to war or not going to war, with one or both.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘No one just goes to war anymore, in fact no one even declares it.’
      • ‘I am unhappy about US actions in the world, I am unhappy about going to war and attacking civilians.’
      • ‘Taiko is the ancient art of drumming that was performed by the Japanese on the battlefield before going to war.’
      • ‘But it's not like we're going to go to war to fight for the cheeky girl's honour.’
      battle, do battle, give battle, wage war, go to war, make war, take up arms
      View synonyms
  • go to the wars

    • archaic Serve as a soldier.

      ‘I did all I could to dissuade him from going to the wars’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘Embsay were in the wars when they entertained Denholme, who were making their first visit to Shires Lane.’
      • ‘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!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I hesitate to mention this when poor Gert is in the wars, but I have hurt myself.’
      • ‘Withers isn't the only player who has been in the wars.’
      • ‘Lesley is in the wars again this time with a smashed wisdom tooth.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Both were in the wars during the quite torrid clash with Clare in Ennis last weekend.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • war clouds

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

      ‘the war clouds were looming’
      • ‘We had said war clouds were hovering, but sometimes lightning strikes even if the weather is clear.’
      • ‘It looks like just as monsoon clouds gather, the war clouds are dispersing.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She had been born in Germany and was attending a German School in Prague when war clouds began to gather.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 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.’
      • ‘In the wake of the tsunami that claimed over 250,000 lives in Aceh, the military has continued its war of attrition.’
      • ‘They will also seek to engage the New Zealand front five in a war of attrition.’
      • ‘I have put myself through a war of attrition, willing the other side to win.’
      • ‘He planned on this kind of war of attrition from the minute he knew he was militarily finished.’
      • ‘Neglected and drab, this once-grand Regency mansion had been the battlefield for a war of attrition between John's mother and father.’
      • ‘They have no education, no job and are prepared to sacrifice their lives in a war of attrition against the US military machine.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘The eight-year war of attrition which followed cost thousands of lives on both sides.’
      • ‘The midfield sector at this stage of the game resembled a war of attrition with neither side gaining a stronghold.’
  • war of nerves

    • A struggle in which opponents try to wear each other down by psychological means.

      • ‘You've waged a war of nerves, but you can't crush the kingdom’
      • ‘Are we to be shown how the war of nerves could have ended?’
      • ‘In most respects it was a war of nerves as well as words.’
      • ‘The selling agent, Jordan, expects a war of nerves and resources.’
      • ‘In the current war of nerves, it is the Korean people who stand to suffer.’
      • ‘The clubs have started a mutual war of nerves, accusing each other of fixing matches and corrupting referees.’
      • ‘War in the jungle is very largely a war of nerves.’
      • ‘The war of nerves testing the three principal candidates for victory in the 2000 Tour De France reaches a climax tomorrow, when the race heads into the Pyrenees.’
      • ‘The terror group also focuses on conducting a war of nerves.’
      • ‘It's a war of nerves for the players and the coaches right now.’
  • war of words

    • A prolonged, often acrimonious, debate.

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

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

      • ‘The First World War was dubbed the war to end all wars.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We stand firm in the face of the war to end all wars and say in unison, ‘never again.’’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘It was called the Great War, 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.