Other forms: wars; warring; warred

War is armed combat between two or more countries or between different groups of people within the same country. As the soul singer Edwin Starr asked, "War! Huh! What is it good for?" Absolutely nothing.

The term "civil war" means not that the war is courteous and polite, but that it is between citizens of the same nation or community, as in the American Civil War. Often war refers to nonmilitary combat or tension, such as between angry neighbors, or rival sports teams, or between different social classes — as in "class war," or government policies such as the "war on drugs."

Definitions of war
  1. noun
    the waging of armed conflict against an enemy
    synonyms: warfare
    see moresee less
    show 29 examples...
    hide 29 examples...
    Chino-Japanese War
    a war between China and Japan (1894 and 1895) over the control of the Korean Peninsula; China was overwhelmingly defeated at Port Arthur
    Macedonian War
    one the four wars between Macedonia and Rome in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, which ended in the defeat of Macedonia and its annexation as a Roman province
    Arab-Israeli War
    tension between Arabs and Israeli erupted into a brief war in June 1967; Israel emerged as a major power in the Middle East
    Arab-Israeli War
    Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in October 1973 (on Yom Kippur); Israel counterattacked and drove the Syrians back and crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt
    Balkan Wars
    two wars (1912-1913) that were fought over the last of the European territories of the Ottoman Empire and that left the area around Constantinople (now Istanbul) as the only Ottoman territory in Europe
    Boer War
    either of two wars: the first when the Boers fought England in order to regain the independence they had given up to obtain British help against the Zulus (1880-1881); the second when the Orange Free State and Transvaal declared war on Britain (1899-1902)
    Crimean War
    a war in Crimea between Russia and a group of nations including England and France and Turkey and Sardinia; 1853-1856
    Franco-Prussian War
    a war between France and Prussia that ended the Second Empire in France and led to the founding of modern Germany; 1870-1871
    French and Indian War
    a war in North America between France and Britain (both aided by American Indian tribes); 1755-1760
    Hundred Years' War
    the series of wars fought intermittently between France and England; 1337-1453
    Iran-Iraq War
    a dispute over control of the waterway between Iraq and Iran broke out into open fighting in 1980 and continued until 1988, when they accepted a UN cease-fire resolution
    Korean War
    a war between North and South Korea; South Korea was aided by the United States and other members of the United Nations; 1950-1953
    Mexican War
    after disputes over Texas lands that were settled by Mexicans the United States declared war on Mexico in 1846 and by treaty in 1848 took Texas and California and Arizona and New Mexico and Nevada and Utah and part of Colorado and paid Mexico $15,000,000
    Napoleonic Wars
    a series of wars fought between France (led by Napoleon Bonaparte) and alliances involving England and Prussia and Russia and Austria at different times; 1799-1815
    Peloponnesian War
    a war in which Athens and its allies were defeated by the league centered on Sparta; 431-404 BC
    Persian Gulf War
    a war fought between Iraq and a coalition led by the United States that freed Kuwait from Iraqi invaders; 1990-1991
    Punic War
    one of the three wars between Carthage and Rome that resulted in the destruction of Carthage and its annexation by Rome; 264-241 BC, 218-201 BC, 149-146 BC
    Russo-Japanese War
    Japanese victory in the war with Russia (1904-1905) gave Japan power over Korea and Manchuria
    Seven Years' War
    a war of England and Prussia against France and Austria (1756-1763); Britain and Prussia got the better of it
    Spanish-American War
    a war between the United States and Spain in 1898
    Thirty Years' War
    a series of conflicts (1618-1648) between Protestants and Catholics starting in Germany and spreading until France and Denmark and Sweden were opposing the Holy Roman Empire and Spain
    Trojan War
    (Greek mythology) a great war fought between Greece and Troy; the Greeks sailed to Troy to recover Helen of Troy, the beautiful wife of Menelaus who had been abducted by Paris; after ten years the Greeks (via the Trojan Horse) achieved final victory and burned Troy to the ground
    Vietnam War
    a prolonged war (1954-1975) between the communist armies of North Vietnam who were supported by the Chinese and the armies of South Vietnam who were supported by the United States
    War of Greek Independence
    the Greeks rebelled against Turkish rule in 1821; with the support of England and France and Russia they won independence in 1828 at Navarino (although the country included only half its present size)
    War of the Austrian Succession
    Prussia and Austria fought over Silesia and most of the rest of Europe took sides; 1740-1748
    War of the League of Augsburg
    an aggressive war waged by Louis XIV against Spain and the Holy Roman Empire and England and Holland and other states (1689-1697)
    War of the Spanish Succession
    a general war in Europe (1701-1714) that broke out when Louis XIV installed his grandson on the throne of Spain; England and Holland hoped to limit Louis' power
    Wars of the Roses
    struggle for the English throne (1455-1485) between the house of York (white rose) and the house of Lancaster (red rose) ending with the accession of the Tudor monarch Henry VII
    War of 1812
    a war (1812-1814) between the United States and England which was trying to interfere with American trade with France
    show 11 types...
    hide 11 types...
    limited war
    a war whose objective is less than the unconditional defeat of the enemy
    psychological warfare, war of nerves
    the use of psychological tactics to destroy the opponents' morale
    civil war
    a war between factions in the same country
    chemical operations, chemical warfare
    warfare using chemical agents to kill or injure or incapacitate the enemy
    BW, bioattack, biologic attack, biological attack, biological warfare
    the use of bacteria or viruses or toxins to destroy men and animals or food
    IW, information warfare
    the use of information or information technology during a time of crisis or conflict to achieve or promote specific objectives over a specific adversary or adversaries
    international jihad, jehad, jihad
    a holy war waged by Muslims against infidels
    world war
    a war in which the major nations of the world are involved
    hot war
    actual fighting between the warring parties
    total war
    military conflict with no restrictions on targets, weapons, or use of military or civilian resources
    bacteriological warfare, germ warfare
    the use of harmful bacteria as a weapon
    type of:
    action, military action
    a military engagement
  2. noun
    a legal state created by a declaration of war and ended by official declaration during which the international rules of war apply
    war was declared in November but actual fighting did not begin until the following spring”
    synonyms: state of war
    see moresee less
    the state prevailing during the absence of war
    proxy war
    a war instigated by a major power that does not itself participate
    type of:
    antagonism, enmity, hostility
    a state of deep-seated ill-will
  3. noun
    an active struggle between competing entities
    “a price war
    “a war of wits”
    synonyms: warfare
    see moresee less
    drug war
    conflict between law enforcement and those who deal in illegal drugs
    trench warfare
    a struggle (usually prolonged) between competing entities in which neither side is able to win
    type of:
    battle, conflict, struggle
    an open clash between two opposing groups (or individuals)
  4. noun
    a concerted campaign to end something that is injurious
    “the war on poverty”
    “the war against crime”
    see moresee less
    type of:
    campaign, cause, crusade, drive, effort, movement
    a series of actions advancing a principle or tending toward a particular end
  5. verb
    make or wage war
    see moresee less
    make peace
    end hostilities
    fight a quick and surprising war
    go to war, take arms, take up arms
    commence hostilities
    type of:
    contend, fight, struggle
    be engaged in a fight; carry on a fight




Cite this entry
  • MLA
  • APA
  • Chicago

Copy citation
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘war'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
Word Family

Look up war for the last time

Close your vocabulary gaps with personalized learning that focuses on teaching the words you need to know.

VocabTrainer -'s Vocabulary Trainer