Memorial Day: Words of Respect and Remembrance

Here’s a look at some of the words you’re most likely to hear and see around Memorial Day. There are many ways to honor the people who died in combat for their country: one is to understand their vocabulary.

Read the full article: The Respectful, Somber Vocabulary of Memorial Day

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. memorial
    a structure erected to commemorate persons or events
    The three officers to be honored died in past years, and were recently added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial.Washington Times (May 18, 2017)
    The name of this holiday is a word closely related to memory. Memorials—such as the famous Lincoln Memorial—are there to help us remember people who died. There are memorials for all sorts of people, but memorials to veterans get a little extra respect, and for good reason. One of the most famous (and largest) memorials in the U.S. is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is two acres long and contains the names of everyone who died in that war.
  2. veteran
    a person who has served in the armed forces
    Included in the executive’s proposal would be an exemption for low-income seniors and disabled veterans.Seattle Times (May 22, 2017)
    A veteran is anyone who has served in some branch of the military such as the army, navy, air force, or marines. No matter how long someone served, they're a veteran. This word is also used for other types of experience, especially substantial experience. A teacher who's been chalking boards for decades can be called a veteran teacher. A basketball player who's been in the NBA for a while—say, 5-10 years—is often called a veteran. And if you've done anything for some time, this word can apply.
  3. service
    an act of help or assistance
    No one now outside of the War Department knew the quality and duration of his service.East of Eden
    This common word has a specific military meaning that's a lot more important than the service you get at your local pizzeria. When you enter the military, you've entered the service, and you can call your time there military service. Many people say to veterans, "Thank you for your service." The idea is that joining the military isn't something you do for yourself, like becoming a lawyer or artist, but something done to serve your country.
  4. military
    the armed forces of a nation
    The military did not say whether there were any US casualties during the raid which was supported by the Yemeni government.BBC (May 23, 2017)
    The military consists of the army, the navy, the marines, and all other government forces that go to war. General, captain, private, and ensign are all military ranks. The military's goal is to defend the county, but also to attack other countries when ordered. A frequently debated political topic is military spending: how much money should be spent on tanks, planes, bombs, and other military equipment? Some argue for a stronger military, while others will say more money should go elsewhere.
  5. draft
    compulsory military service
    366 blue plastic capsules contained the birthdays that would be chosen in the first Vietnam draft lottery drawing on December 1, 1969.
    There are many types of drafts, such as a gust of wind or rough piece of writing. But the military version is a lot more significant: a draft selects people for the military. If you're drafted, you have to enter the service, unless you don't pass the medical exams. Some people receive a deferment, meaning they delay their service. Another way that some avoid the draft is by being a conscientious objector: someone philosophically opposed to violence in general or a specific war.
  6. enlist
    join the military
    He thought about enlisting in the Marine Corps before an encounter with a CIA recruiter.Washington Post (May 18, 2017)
    A draft brings people into the military, whether they want to join or not. The U.S. has had a draft at different points in history, most recently during the Vietnam era when we were sending an enormous number of troops over there. Whether there's a draft or not, people can volunteer for the military: if you volunteer, you enlist. This word can also be used to describe recruiting other people. A new enlistee in the navy could then try to enlist others: in other words, encourage them to join too.
  7. platoon
    a military unit that is a subdivision of a company
    He led a rifle platoon in Vietnam, eventually receiving numerous commendations, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.Washington Post (May 17, 2017)
    This French borrowing entered English in the 1500s: it refers to a group of soldiers, usually infantrymen. Often a platoon is made of various squadrons or squads—a platoon is bigger than a squad, but smaller than a company. Soldiers who served in the same platoon share a special bond.
  8. sacrifice
    personnel that are lost by death or capture
    The sacrifice of soldiers killed during World Wars One and Two is well-documented.BBC (May 19, 2017)
    To sacrifice something is to give it up, and this is one of the most important words relating to Memorial Day, which honors people who sacrificed their lives. Dying in war is often called the ultimate sacrifice. In a world where most people are all about me, me, and me, this type of sacrifice is hard to imagine.
  9. combat
    the act of fighting; any contest or struggle
    But Pentagon officials this month maintained that the accident occurred outside the Vietnam combat zone.Seattle Times (May 21, 2017)
  10. deferment
    act of putting off to a future time
    Trump himself received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, including one for bone spurs in his heel, the Times reported in August.Reuters (Feb 9, 2017)
  11. troop
    a group of soldiers
    In January 2016, South Korean border troops fired shots at a suspected drone.BBC (May 23, 2017)
  12. volunteer
    a person who performs work done by choice
    Bereza, who commanded one of the volunteer battalions that fought in the east, called it necessary to preserve the state.Seattle Times (May 5, 2017)
  13. war
    the waging of armed conflict against an enemy
    They remind me of photos of soldiers returning from the Great War, hollow-eyed and bald.Orphan Train
  14. strategy
    an elaborate and systematic plan of action
    Lee, they wrote, mishandled overall strategy of the war.Washington Post (May 19, 2017)
  15. compulsory
    required by rule
    Russia maintains the compulsory one-year draft, but has increasingly sought to enlist volunteers for longer terms of duty to boost the military capability.Washington Times (Nov 29, 2016)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.